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date: 16 November 2019


  • Andrea Nixon
  • , revised by Peter K. Marsh


Mongolian term for plucked or bowed chordophones or a jew’s harp. Some of the string instruments have decorative carvings at the top of the neck in the shape of animal or bird heads, real or mythological. The morin khuur (or moriny tolgoit khuur: ‘khuur with a horse’s head’) is a two-string fiddle with a horse’s head carved at the top of the neck, often with a dragon’s head directly underneath the horse’s. Heads of dragons, sea monsters, birds, and horses also appear on Tibetan lutes and in Mongolian and Tibetan iconography of lutes held by Buddhist gods.

The morin khuur has a wooden neck that pierces a trapeziform wooden resonator. Traditionally, this resonator has a wooden back, soundholes cut into the back or sides, and a soundtable of sheepskin or goatskin; modern instruments use soundboxes constructed entirely from wood and having violin-style f-holes cut in the soundtable. Two horsehair strings run from the end of the spike, over a bridge on the soundtable, then over a smaller bridge on the neck, to two lateral tuning pegs. The strings are called ...

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