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Performing Arts

Morin Huur (Ikhel)

( UNESCO Masterpiece: Proclamation 2003 )

Horse-headed fiddle


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Horse-headed fiddle with only two strings is a musical instrument producing melodies, which cannot be played by any other instruments. One can find melodies of world classics performed on horse-headed fiddle and other melodies are performed only on this instrument.

Reasons for selection

Morin huur is a unique musical instrument with horse-hair strings created by the nomadic Mongols during their long history. Traditional performing manners and methods of manufacture are to be preserved and transmitted to the next generation.

Area where performed

Morin huur : Central and Eastern parts of Mongolia.
Ikhel : West Mongolia (Hovd, Uvs).

Essential elements of the performing art


Detailed explanation

Mongolian folk songs are usually accompanied by some musical instruments, often by the morin huur. The name varies somewhat among different tribes: the instrument may sometimes be called shanagan huur or scoop violin after the shape of the body. The morin huur came into being in the second century B.C., during the rule of the Huns, but in its long history it has undergone several changes. Initially, the end (peg-box)of the instrument was carved in the shape of a dragon, the legendary garuda bird head. From the nineteenth century onwards, a horse's head replaced this and so the name morin huur came into being.

The sound-box of a typical morin huur is in the shape of a trapezoid, the bottom part of that is slightly wider than the top. The ribs were traditionally made of four laths of wood, with the surface and back of the instrument covered most commonly with hide or thin brass plate, and back soundboards swelling out slightly, similar to instruments into the top sound-board, and the instrument has a sound-post under and off the side of the bridge. As a result of these changes in construction, the tone and timbre have become louder and richer.

The morin huur has two strings, made of strands of black or white horsehair, not woven together but running side by side. The two strings were usually tuned a fifth apart, but more recently they have come to be tuned a fourth apart, which has made the finger positions of the left hand easier. The range is three octaves. All these changes have made it possible to play contemporary and classical music.

Publication and textual documentation

Smirnov. B.
1971 Mongolskaya norodnya musica Mongolian folk music .

Badrakh. G.
1960 Mongoliin khogjmiin tuukhees History of Mongolian Music .

Badraa. J.
1998 Mongoliin khogjmiin tuukhees History of Mongolian Music .

Audio documentation

already available

Visual documentation

Badamkhand, morin huur, Documentary film, 1988.

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Ensemble of the Morin huur under the State Philharmonic in Ulaanbaatar, Research Institute of Arts and Culture in Ulaanbaatar.

Data provider

Executive Director
Mongolian National Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage
Address: Baga toiruu 22, Ulaanbaatar 46, P. O. Box 46/660, Mongolia