A 61-year-old performer of the erhu, or two-stringed Chinese violin, in Taoyuan County has breathed new life into the time-honored instrument by incorporating the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac into its design.
Having dabbled in woodcarving, stone carving, calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting and toy design, Teng Ching-yu (鄧景裕), of Sinwu Township’s (新屋) Houjhuang Village (後庄), plunged into the world of the erhu about two decades ago.
Shortly afterward, Teng began trying to design his own erhu, using his expertise in carving and toy designs, aiming to revitalize the traditional instrument whose timbre is, from his perspective, too doleful to draw audiences if it not played by a true professional.
Teng then attempted to build the instruments’ sound boxes in the shape of the 12 zodiac signs, only to discover that his first batch was not functional.
However, with a few adjustments, Teng succeeded in creating animal-styled erhu that are both functional and have appealing tones.
Stepping up his efforts, Teng recently built a duck-shaped musical ensemble of various traditional Chinese musical instruments, including a pair of Chinese cymbals, a wooden drum, a fipple flute, a fife and most importantly, an erhu.
As the ensemble — whose duck-styled pedestal is made of glass fiber, galvanized iron, wood and shells — is mounted on a bicycle, Teng is able to stage a live performance wherever he wants and with whatever instruments he desires.
Another creation that Teng takes pride in is a buffalo-styled erhu that is outfitted with a whistle and a balloon mouthpiece.
“I would first try to attract the attention of passers-by by blowing the whistle, and then create balloons in various shapes with the mouthpiece to amuse children at the scene after my performances,” Teng said.
Teng said he was working to bring his creations into the international arena because he wanted to show the world that “even a rural area in the country” could nurture a talent like him.