Errentai traces its history back to the 18th century during the Qing dynasty. It originated in Shanxi and later spread to western Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, and Hebei. The songs are derived from folk songs; as such, different styles are developed in different areas.
Errentai is performed by two singers, one acting in the dan (female) role and another in the chou (male clown) role. Traditionally both roles were portrayed by men, but the dan role is typically portrayed by actresses today. The performers would sing back and forth. Stage props include handkerchiefs, folding fans, rattle sticks and paper or silk stripes.
The musical instruments used include the dizi (transverse flute), sihu (four-stringed fiddle), and yangqin (hammered dulcimer). The wood block (梆子; bangzi) and sikuaiwa (四块瓦, a percussion instrument) are also sometimes used.