Far East Asia / Mongolia


Morin Khuur (in Mongolian). Ma Tau Qin (in Mandarin Chinese).

Bowed > Chordophones.

Mongolia > China > Far East Asia.

G D or G C usually in fourths or fifths.

Dimensions: Scale length

Acquisition Date: Year 2004.

Acquisition Source: A friend of mine, Mongolia.
Description: The Morin Khuur is also known by other alternate names, the names are Ikil or Ma Ta Qin in Mandarin Chinese. In China during the Qing Dynasty (c. 1644-1901) the ma tau chin may have originated from the same source-instrument. The morin khuur is a chordophone of the bowed instrument family. In the Chinese system of classification this khuur belongs to the huqin branch of the stringed instrument family. The khuur is one of the main instruments played for the "long song" or "epic song". In Western Mongolia a name for the Khuur is "Ikil" in which there is a connection to the Tuvan Igil (a related bowed instrument). The morin khuur is also played in the neighboring Buryat Republic.

The Playing Techniques:
The Morin Khuur is played upright in the same manner as a cello. Unlike a cello the on the left string or the first string of the instrument, the musician holds his finger nail on the string and applies very nimble pressure in which allows for vibrato and applied acoustic effects during performance. However this is where the cello and the Morin-khuur similarities end. On the cello the musician places their fingers directly onto the string in which touches the fingerboard. Where as on the morin khuur the space in between the strings and the fingerboard allow room for some fancy finger techniques including a picking technique with the left hand whose movements resembles the sound of horses galloping.

Anatomy of the Morin Khuur: The body of the morin khuur is usually constructed in a trapezoidal shape, in my specimen shown in the photo. The body is constructed entirely out of several pieces of wood. Some morin khuurs have hide stretched over the front and back of the body. The head stock is carved in the theme of a horses head. In Mongolian culture and mythology the horse is a very important symbol. Strings travel through the serpents mouth carved just below the head stock at the top on the neck. This represents the fangs of the serpent. The strings are attached to a shaft that goes through the trapezoidal body. A sound post is added into the wooden body to provide a sturdy structure and improve the acoustic resonance. Borrowed from the violin f-holes are carved onto the top of the surface of the body. On the front of the neck outlay carvings of animal bone are vertically positioned. These carvings are of Chinese Zodiacal calendar the rooster, rat, pig, serpent or snake. The artwork on the Morin Khuur is also influenced by a shared heritage of Tibetan Buddhism. The pair of strings are called “Narin” and “Bhuddin”. In Mongolian the word “narin” means “thick” and “bhuddin” means “thin”. The Bhuddin or thicker strings has a count of 130 individually selected strands from a mares tale. The thinner strands of hair amount to approximately 105 individual strands selected from a horses tail.

About my specimen(s):
My first morin khuur is likely from Inner Mongolia and it was acquired from Clarion Music in San Francisco USA. A sticker from the manufacturer showed the same sticker that was present on a dizi flute that is also in my collection. My second specimen is hand made in Mongolia and brought back by a friend of a friend of mine.

Citations: > Bibliography: The New Grove Dictionary of Music G to O by Stanley Sadie, Page 426 Khyagasan Khuur ISBN# 0-333-37878-4 > Discrography: