The duxianqin is nearly identical to the Vietnamese đàn bầu, from which it is likely to have been derived. Chinese sources describe đàn độc huyền as being an instrument of the Jing (also spelled Gin or Kinh) ethnic group of China, who are ethnic Vietnamese living in China It is still sometimes played by these ethnic groups. Sometimes the body of the instrument is made from a large tube of bamboo rather than wood, which is more common in Vietnam.
The duxianqin has been recognized by the Chinese government to be "a vehicle of 'intangible cultural heritage,' which can be defined as song, music, dance, drama, crafts and similar prized skills that can be recorded but not touched or interacted with". As a traditional instrument for ethnic groups within China, the cultural significance of the instrument is often commonly accepted and enjoyed by locals. It is common for groups of duxianqin players to come together to play at large-scale and small-scale Chinese festivals.
The duxianqin is played using harmonics, with the string's tension varied by the use of a flexible rod manipulated with the left hand. Pluck the duxianqin's string with the right hand and simultaneously control the pitch with the left hand by moving the instrument's spout to adjust the tension on the string. Depending on the direction that the instrument's spout is turned, either toward or away from the player, it will bend the pitch of the string to higher and lower notes.