Notes on tying an Erhu qianjin.

Editor’s note: This post is a modified cross-post from Erhu Link – all your erhu queries here!!! I’ve archived the core info from the post here as Mr. Dunhuang hasn’t updated the blog post since 2008, and the info contained is frequently sought. I’ve substituted the Eason video below for the static pictures (which are screencaps from the video), but for the moment, the pictures remain on Mr. Dunhuang’s site. His blog post is an elaboration of the Eason video. [Eason is a Chinese music instrument store in Singapore. ]

Qian… Jin…

Hey all… My first post is going to be about the qian jin string, a very much ignored aspect of the physicality of the erhu. I can safely guarantee you that 90% of the erhu learning population have no idea how to tie the qian jin, and some who knows doesn’t know how to tie it properly. Even some professionals, including graduates from music colleges tie it in odd, inconvenient and unreliable methods. Recently I saw a video launched into youtube by Eason Enterprise

and, well, it is quite useful in showing you how to do it, from the viewpoint of someone who already knows how to do it.

The Inside Knot

Well to be absolutely honest, there isn’t such thing as “the” method to tie the qian jin, but this method which I would refer to as the inside knot method, is by far the most conventional and popular among the professionals. Well if u buy an erhu from Dunhuang, you’d notice the qian jian comes in this orientation.

This method is the most popular as it is most reliable. Since the knot is inside, u wont have problems such as the knot coming off, or the knot getting into your way when u play the first register. Also, its strong, as even if a part of the qian jin still broke, like when you’re on stage, chances are the qian jin would still hold out for a couple of hours.

But it takes quite a but of practice to get it right. And for starters, be prepared to have to retie a couple of times if u cannot maintain the loop’s position with your thumb.

For those who are too lazy to learn, there is actually another method. Basically, this other method ignores the inside loop, and just go straight for pulling the strings around the rod. The outcome would be like this :

Well if you are halfway through a practice and want to save time. This would suffice temporarily. The knot is outside, and therefore it comes off easily, and is therefore strongly advised against if you are going to perform on stage.

Some Extra Info…

Distance from sound box to qianjin

Some people asked what the height from the sound box to the qian jin should be. Well I must say there is no definite answer. Most professionals follow the length by placing their elbow on the soundbox and tying to qian jin at where their root of their little finger is. This method may be a good marker, but if you have exceptionally short or long hands, or short hand long fingernails, whatever alien u are, its unreliable. The average length determined by the shop I work at is 38cm. But my opinion? Shift it around to find your best, most suited spot.

Mini Qian Jin as fine tune?

Some people might have noticed that some SCO musicians like Ling Hock Siang likes to tie this funny little qian jin on top of their qian jin. Well for those people who don’t know, these are fine tunes! By shifting it around, you change the pressure of the fine tunes on the strings.


To tie this, you first have to pull a bit of qian jin once around the rod, then another time around ONE OF THE STRINGS, then once more around the rod, then tie a dead knot with the two ends. U can choose to do it with one, or both strings. This is a good way to spend your little bits and pieces of wasted qian jin strings.

Another good site on the topic is Benny T’s, which, in addition to including and expanding on the Eason material, adds the following useful info:

How to Decide the Distance from the Qianjin to the Bridge?

Let your 4 fingers of left hand widen out and press the string naturally. Measure the distance from the fingertip of the index-finger to the fingertip of the pinkie finger. Together with the bridge, qianjin sets the appropriate vibrating length of the strings (38 or 39 to 42 cm).

Multiply the Distance by 4.5. The result of the Multiplication is the Distance from the Qianjin to the Bridge that is Suitable for you.

Reason: The 2 fingers must widen to cover the interval of perfect fourth. The interval of perfect fourth at the first position is just 2/9 of the length of the string from the qianjin to the bridge.


To expand a bit on Benny T’s bridge-qianjin comments, the distance between nut (qianjin) and bridge on a stringed instrument sets the position of each of the notes. Since the erhu (like a fretless banjo) doesn’t have fretted note positions, the nut-bridge distance can be whatever the player wants (within the scale range of the strings), and the player’s fingers will have to find where the note centers are…. Having an adjustable nut-bridge distance allows the player to fit the note spacing to their hand span, something you can’t do on a fretted instrument.

What is an erhu? An ancient 2-string (D,A) Chinese lap violin…

Posted this stuff cause I have one of these suckers (erhu) in my collection.