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The story of MaTou Qin

MaTou Qin (bowed stringed instrument with a scroll carved like s horse's head, used by the Mongol nationality) is a traditional musical instrument, richest in the Mongol flavor. It is also called "HuWuer", "HuQin", "Horsetail HuQin", "Molin Huwuer" and so on. It is a kind of brushed string instrument. There is a horse's-head-shaped decoration on the top of the instrument, and it is named after that. It is composed of many parts, like the resonator, the shank, the head, the tuning page, Mazi, the string and the bow. Most of the resonators are trapezium, and still some are square, rectangular, hexagonal and octagonal. The frame of the resonator is made from horny wood blocks, with horsehide or oxhide, sheepskin covering both sides, or with hide covering the front and the thin slab covering its back. The shank is made from color wood, pear wood or rosewood etc., with a tuning page on each sides of the upside, and the head of the instrument on its top. The bows are mostly made from the cane, or the wood pole and the horsetail. The two stings are made from 40 (the inner string) and 60 (the outer string) horsetails, using silk strings to tie them to the musical instrument. The way of Matou Qin's performance is quite different from that of other drawn string instruments. The bow is not put between the inner and outer string, but is kept outside them to brush and play. It is often used in a solo, or a self-playing and singing. Its timbre is gentle, deep and low, and it sounds melodious and mellow, full of the flavor of the grassland. Therefore, it is said that, "In describing the beauty of the grassland, a melody performed by Matou Qin is much more vivid than the color of the painters or the language of the poets". In the recent decades, the technicians of Mongol folk musical instruments and accomplished performers have made some changes to the traditional Matou Qin, the resonator was broadened, the cover was changed into python hide, and the elasticity of the bow was raised. The nylon string took the place of the horsetail string so that the volume became louder and the tune rose by 4 degrees. Such improvement not only maintained Matou Qin's original gentle, deep and rich timbre, but also made it more clear and bright.

The Mongols love horses, and they are also full of special sentiments toward Matou Qin. As to the origin of Matou Qin, there is a beautiful and appealing legend spreading wide in the whole grassland: Long ago, on the Chahaer grassland, there was a Mongol youth named Su He. He grew up with his grandmother, and made their livings on keeping sheep. One day, on his way back, Su He found a little white horse, and brought it home. He took great care of the horse, and it grew up day by day. The horse was snow white all over, lovely and strong, and the grandma and grandson liked it very much. All day long, it stayed with Su He. One spring, the king held a horse race campaign, and also promised that he would marry his daughter to the champion of the race. Inspired by his friends, Su He took part in the campaign along with his beloved white horse, and won. However, the king not only broke his promise, but also hurt Su He and took the horse away from him. One night, while Su He was sleeping, he was woken up by the noise outside. He went out of his yurt to have to look, and it is his little white horse; it had escaped from the king and gone back to its master, but it was shot by several arrows and hurt badly. The horse died the next day. Su He sank into deep sorrow and even lost his appetite for drinking and eating. One night, he dreamed of the little white horse. He gently stroked it, and it also laid abroad him. The horse said: "my master, if you want me to accompany you for ever, and never leave you lonely, then use my bones and muscles to make a musical instrument!" After Su He awoke the other day, he followed the little white horse's words, and made a musical instrument, using its shank as the pole, its skull as the muff, and its tail as the bow and the string. He also carved a horse head on the top of instrument according to the white horse's appearance. Whenever he missed the little white horse, he played the musical instrument. Since then, Matou Qin had been wide spread all over the whole grassland.

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