The instrument's name comes from the words ''sì'' and ''hú'' . Its soundbox and neck are made from hardwood and the playing end of the soundbox is covered with , cow, or sheep skin.
There are several sizes of ''sihu''; the lowest of these is generally tuned C, C, G, G; the medium size is tuned G, G, D, D; and the smallest size is tuned D, D, A, A.
The instrument is held vertically, with its soundbox on the player's lap, and its strings are tuned in pairs. The hair of the bow passes between the two pairs of strings.
The ''sihu'' is primarily associated with the Mongolian culture, and is played by Mongolians in Mongolia and also in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. It is also used as a traditional instrument in the Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang provinces of China.
It is also used as an accompanying instrument in various Chinese narrative genres, including Beijing ''dagu'', plum blossom ''dagu'', ''xihe dagu'', Tianjin new tunes, Shandong ''qin shu'', Northeast ''dagu'', Hubei song, Shaoxing ''lianhua luo'', Shanxi ''er ren'', Inner Mongolia ''er ren'', northeast dance duet, lucky play, Beijing opera derived drama from ballads, Hebei ''pi ying'' , and Henan ''erjiaxian'' traditional entertainment involving talking, singing, and drama.
Similar instruments include the ''d&'' and the Tuvan ''byzaanchy''.
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