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Religious Music and the Music of Flutes and Pipes

Buddhism was introduced to China in the Eastern Han Dynasty, bringing with it Cultural influences, including that of music, from India and the regions to the west of China into the Central Plain. Research by Chinese historians has found that the culture of the Central Plain began to seep westward at quite an early date, and by the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty a reverse flow started, until cultural exchanges both ways became increasingly requent. The transmission of Buddhism eastward was the most important feature of Silk Road culture. One important means of propagating the Buddhist rituals was the music which accompanied them. This music inevitably combined with the indigenous music of China. The ordinary music used every day by the Buddhists was called zanbei or fanbei, and was divided into that used for chanting the scriptures and that used for hymns of praise. The former was called Zhuandu and the latter fanbei They generally had short lines of four, five or seven words each. Sung as solos, in unison or as a chorus, these songs praising the Buddha and Boddhisatvas and imparting the scriptures were sung at matins, vespers, confession and other ceremonies. Needless to say, in the course of translating the scriptures into Chinese, it was found necessary to translate these hymns, which were originally in Sanskrit, also into Chinese for the benefit of Chinese believers, and this entailed creating a new type of music appropriate for the phonology of the Chinese language. In the Tang Dynasty book Pearl Forest of the Garden of the Law it says, "The Chinese and Sanskrit languages are different from each other, and their phonologies are not compatible."

In the Record of the Exalted Monk Liang Huijiao explained the course of the transformation: Because the Sanskrit and Chinese languages have different structures, it was difficult to fit Sanskrit music to Chinese words and Chinese music to Sanskrit words. So, although there were many people who translated the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, there were few translators of the zanbet King Si of Chen was the first to adapt the zanbdei Chinese music, greatly helped by his vast knowledge of both linguistics and music.

Another important figure in the amalgamation of Buddhist music and Chinese music was Xiao Van, Emperor wu of liang. This ruler propagated Buddhism to strengthen his government; at the same time, he was well versed in traditional Chinese culture. He himself composed Buddhist music, and combined Buddhist ceremonial music .with the Qingshang music popular at that time. But, of course, the people who really sinicized and popularized Buddhist music were the many talented monks of the temples. During the Six Dynasties period, many leading temples used traditional music, dancing and dramas to spread Buddhist doctrines, taking advantage of festival days, and many monks with artistic skills took part. The Tale of the Luoyang Temple contains the following account concerning the jingle Temple in the capital, Luoyang: ' Even in the six cloisters, female musicians were installed. Their singing echoed around the rafters. The sleeves of the dancers gently fluttered. The music of zithers and flutes resounded loud and clear, enchanting the hearers." When the temple's thousand images of Buddha were paraded through the streets clouds of incense hung like a dense fog, the sacred music shook Heaven and Earth, the players ranced and danced, all was a festival."

The Tang Dynasty, which was a period in which feudalism flourished in China, was also a period which saw the sinicization of Buddhist usic in the course of two or three centuries, until finally it became completely into the Chinese musical mainstream. From a passage in the westem Rivir Notes we can deduce that Buddhist music was divided into categories based on the 28 gong tunes, which were the common or yan tunes used in court music, and they had already been absorbed into the traditional Chinese artistic mode.

In the Tang Dynasty there emerged a type of literary form in which alternate narration and singing were used to expound the Buddhist scriptures. A cycle of stories, episode by episode, was related using the traditional Chinese method of singing interspersed with recitation.

Taoism is a religion native to China. Besides having the normal trappings of a religion, it incorporates the supernatural elements of ancient Chinese culture. Taoism has also been influenced by Confucianism and Buddhism. It uses music as a medium through which to communicate with the spirits during religious ceremonies. One of the earliest references to the employment of music by Taoism came in the year 415 when the Northern Sky sect of Taoism, founded by Kou Qian, was said to have used "cloud music" (also known as "huaxia hymns" or 'buxu music"). With the reform of Taoism in the south of China, under the auspices of Lu Xiujing, its music also became more and more regularized.

The founding father of Taoism was Laozi, whose real name was Li Dan and who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period. The ancestral name of the Tang emperors was also Li, and partly because of this connection, Taoism found imperial favor under the Tang. The Zhengyi sect of Taoism came to be regarded as the orthodox school. Not only that, but Taoism was even exalted as the state religion, and a Taoist master was made the imperial tutor Both the imperial household rituals and state sacrifices had a Taoist tone. So it was natural that Taoist music was also highly regarded in this period. Emperor Gaozu ordered his court musicians to compose Taoist music, and Emperor Xuanzong got his senior minister who was also adept at Taoism to do the same. Xuanzong also taught the Taoist buxu music.

During the Nortbem Song Dynasty, a TaoiSt Collection of over 5,O00 scrolls was put together, which bespeaks the high regard Taoism was held in by the rulers at that time The most va1uabfe of these documents is a collection of scores of Taoist rnusic, titled, The jade Tunes of the Law There are more than 5O pieces of music dating from the Tang to the Song dynasties, which are the oldest extant examples of Taoist music, They are written in a lost musical notation, and would not be able to be jnterPreted if the tradition had not been handed down orally.

There are two kinds of Taoist music: vocal and instrumental. The vocal music is dominant, and is divided into solo singing (usually by the presider at ceremonies), choral singing and chanting. Instrumental music was played at the commencement and closing of ceremonies, and between songs to accompany the dance-like movements of the particjpants. The vocal music are formed into a simple series of segments, in which couPlets match or each four lines form a pattern of "introduction, efucidation, transition and conclusion"- The more elaborate of these pieces had themes based on the content of the ceremonies, and had elaborate rules for their composition The major Taoist rituals include the Flood, Drought, 1nsect Pest, Thunderbolt, Pestilence, lnjury, Birth, Death, Salvation and lmmortality ceremonies. The music adopted for these rituals differ depending on the nature of the particular rite.

Generally sPeaking, as the consciousness of the Chjnese began to change during the period of the Ming and Qing dynasties, there was an increasing tendency for the three spiritual strands of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism to coalesce. This trend was refjected in music too, as the boundaries between the ritual music of the Buddhist and Taoist temp1es and secu1ar music became blurred. The Ming Dynasty compilatjons of Taoist music are The Great Ming Tome of Taoist Music (containing 14 tunes in the gongchi notation), The Grest Ming Taoist Music The Cisssic of the Bright Peacock King of the Heavenly Mother From these works we can see that the Taoist music of the Ming Dynasty not only inherited the old music of the Tang, Song, Yuan dynasties, it also absorbed the new Taoist music formed from combined northern and southern tunes, and even such folk tunes as lntroduction to the Limpid River, A Lump of Gold and Picking Top. This phenomenon was also reflected in Buddhist music. As recounted above, it was in the reign of Emperor Wu of Liang that Buddhist music began to adopt the Qingshang musical form. In the Tang and Song dynasties it absorbed northern and southern tunes in large numbers. The oldest manuscript which presefves a score of this type of music is the Musical Scores of Beijing's prestigious Zhihua Temple, built in 1446. The owner of this temple, Wang Zhen, was one of the most powerful court eunuchs of his day, and the temple was his family shrine. The temple housed a group of monks who were talented at playing flute and pipe music. The tradition was handed down from master to pupil, until in 1953 musicologists visited the temple and found the 27th generation of these performers still living there. They also found in the archives a manuscript of musical scores dating from 1 694 and written in an ancient notation. Most importantly, the temple musicians were still able to play and sing these pieces, which are clearly over 300 years old. According to the musicologists, two-thirds of these pieces of music had the same names as ci tunes of the Tang and Song dynasties, evidence that Buddhist music of the Ming and Qing dynasties had its roots in the Tang and Song dynasties.

Needing a special mention is the fact that the use of purely instrumental music as the background accompaniment to religious ceremonies was very widespread; and for Outdoor ceremonies both Buddhists and Taoists used the most suitable Chinese instruments' flutes and pipes.

This type of music is the most solemn and elegant of the various percussion and wind genres, but is different from the wind music centered on the Suona inasmuch as flutes and pipes create the sort of clear and serene atmosphere needed at religious ceremonies. In consequence, this type of music is used in almost all Buddhist and Taoist temples in China, and when we talk about instrumental religious music, we are generally referring to the music of flutes and pipes.

The main instruments in the flute and pipe orchestra were the guanzi sheng diziand gong chimes, together with cymbals and gongs. Guanzi was called the bilin ancient times and belong, to the double- reed category of wind instruments. ft is mostly made of wood, with eight holes for the notes (seven in front and one at the back). Its hard double reed allows an alternation of loud and soft notes in a high, piping tone. There are three kinds of guanzj: big, medium and,small, differing in thickness and length. The small variety has a high and piercing tone color, The techniques used when playing It are tapping, trilling, ubbling, flower tongue, glide and overtone. The guanzihas been a lead instrument through the ages in b0th court and temple music; hence, it is called the "head flute". It is widely used in Buddhist and Taoist religjous music.The Sheng (Fig' 2-22) is China's most ancient double-reed and composite instrument Traditionally, it has also been called the he and the yu It comes in square, round, large, medium and small varieties, and can have 13, 14, 17, 1 9 or 36 reeds. The most common type of sheng has a round bowl made of paulownia wood, int0 which are inserted bamboo pipes, arranged in a cluster shaped like a horse's hoof. On the right side are holes for the little finger of the right hand. At the base of each pipe is a copper ring to hold the reed and adjust the note. The sheng is an instrument widely used in the orchestras of folk operas.

Gong chimes is an instrument consisting of ten small gongs, each one tuned to a different note, Suspended on a frame. Flute and pipe orchestras generally have two sets of gong chimes, arranged in a V-shape on a platform, and the player strikes them with a small stick held in each hand.

In the section The Forms and Compositions of Ensemble Music, we described how traditional Chinese esthetic standards placed percussion- and-wind orchestras with the Suona as the lead instrument in the category of vulgar music, because of their tendency to wild swings of tempo. Flute- and-pipe music, on the other hand, was considered refined enough for creating an atmosphere Suitable for religious ceremonies, and so most Chinese Buddhist and Taoist temples adopted it as their sacred music.

Xi'an drum music originated in Xi'an City, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, where the terra-cotta warriors guarding the tomb 0f China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang, are called the eighth wonder of the world" Xi'an was the capital of several of China's dynasties, including the Qin, Han and Tang. Chinese musicologists identify Xi'an drum music as a form of folk percussion-and-wind music which local people have preserved intact since the Tang Dynasty One of the most Outstanding of these musicians was An Laixu (1895-1976), whose skill at performance and artistic sense were reckoned as unsurpassable. Especially, his rendition of the Eight-Best Suite the Double Gongs in the Mode of Che is regarded as a gem of Chinese music. Xi'an drum music was mainly employed in the service of Buddhism and Taoism, and the performers of it were lay Buddhists or Taoist priests living among the common people.

It is often said that the most typical southern-style Buddhist music is that played at the temples and shrines on Mount Emei, while the most typical northern-style is that played on Mount Wutai. The latter, located in Shanxi Province, is one of China's "Four Famous Mountains" sacred to Buddhism. The nearly 5O temples and monasteries on the mountain are divided into "green" (following the Han Buddhist tradition) and "yellow" (following the Tibetan Buddhist tradition) ones. The music they play is also divided along the same lines, based on the gong tunes mode. originally, most of these establishments were homes to the monks who played the flutes and pipes, but nowadays the majorily of these performers live among the ordinary people. Because of the isolation and transportation difficulties in this region, and other factors, the temples here preserved a strong cultural tradition. The Daqu music they cherished are among the most common pieces of Buddhist music. They are arranged in clusters called taoqu the shortest of which takes about half an hour to perform in its entirety, some of the longer ones taking over an hour the incantation of pu'an is a traditional folk flute-and- pipe taoqu performed all over China. A score of this work is included in the Appendix for Stings, compiled by a Mongolian scholar named Rong Zhai. Pu'an was the Buddhist name of a famous Song Dynasty monk. In order to teach his disciples Sanskrit, he composed a verse in the form of an incantation in the Sanskrit syllabary. Buddhist monks would chant its smooth and intimate melody in unison every day Accompanied on the sheng The lncantation aura of other- worldliness. The sheng has a particularly pious and solemn note, making it Suitable for accompanying chanting. Because these sets of Daqu music were handed down by different religious sects and schools, there are differences in the vocal and instrumental renditions, but their basic melodies are the same.

Buddhism regards chanting as an extremely important means of transmitting the Buddhist spirit. The Stories of Exalted Monks says, "Both oral and written methods are important for the propagation of Buddhism: voice without writing cannot give play to the essential Way; writing without voice cannot produce the worldly essence "So temples all over China handed down a large number of hymns. The Praise of the West chanted by the monks of Mount Wutai is a particularly beautiful hymn. Buddhists believe that there is the Azure World to the east and the Pure Land to the west, while the present world they are living in is a transitory one. Amida is the Buddha of the West, a land to which Buddhists believe they can go through holiness and self-Cultivation. The Praise of the West is a hymn lauding the delights of the Pure Land. Examples of Such zanbei or hymns of praise, are the pre-Tang Tathagata Bei, Transcendent World Bei and Boddhjsattva Cissic Modern songs for teaching the scriptures are The Sound of the Bell and Reflection. In addition, found all over China are the Three jewel Hymn of Pfaise, Buddha of A Thousand VOices, Pyramid Classic and Sic-Line Hvmn of Praise.

At Buddhist ceremonies, hymns of praise are interspersed with instrumental music. Also part of the sequence is a homily delivered by the preside L Which hymns and instrumental music are Suitable for which ceremonies have been carefully regulated for centuries: Printed or hand- copied instructions are available detailing the sequence and types of the music and singing, including the percussion accompaniment to dance-like movements and the rhyming homilies. In old times, the Buddhist monks and Taoist priests in the temples would be hired by the people of the local villages to put on such performances; there are few people capable of staging them nowadays, and they are mostly folk music troupes.

Religious believers living among lay villagers have long formed music troupes, like the Taoist orchestra of the Yanbei district near Mount Wutai. This group is part of the Zhengyi sect, which worships the Master of the Northern Sky. The senior f mily takes care of the altar of the group, the members of which are half-musicians, half-farmers. Preserving the Taoist music, the orchestra forms to perform at happy and sad occasions for the local people. The former include sacrificing to Emperor Heaven and Empress Earth, and for good harvests, and to ce1ebrate weddings, births, anniversaries and the completion of houses. The sad occasions are mainly funerals. The orchestra also performs It Such activities as temple fairs and on market days.

The music performed by folk orchestras is, of course, much more down-to-earth. For instance, the Suite called Musical Movement was originally used by the Zhengyi sect of the Yanbei district to propagate its doctrines. but later it became one of the eight major suites in a folk percussion orchestra's repertoire. It is a flute-and-pipe Suite in 14 parts, but each part is linked to the next by a percussion interlude. The first nine parts are known as the "regular group', while the other five sections are known as the "annex tunes". A local musician commented, "The gods hear the regular group, while men hear the annex tunes." The purity and simplicity of this type of Daqu music puts it in a high position both historically and Culturally.

During the lengthy period of history when China was a feudal society, the temp1es and monasteries were often the collectors, preservers, transmitters and improvers of folk music. This can be attributed to the facts that they were wealthy production units, were places where devout men and women were trained and were constant recipients of large gifts and grants from the nobility This made them economically able to Sustain monks who specialized in the art of music. These artistic monks who preserved the ancient musical Culture of the court also absorbed a large amount of influences from opera music and folksongs. Thus, we can conclude hat the music performed on flutes and pipes was an important source of the major pieces of traditional Chinese instrumental music. Except court banquet music and opera qupai music, a considerable part of them were the.musical work done in the temples and monasteries. At any rate, we have to recognize that the temples and monasteries preserved these instrumental works.

This is one of the reasons why Chinese music- ologists had been doing research on religious music. Researchers into folk music are continually finding great amounts of valuable material in the sphere of religious music. one of China's Outstanding musicologists, Yang Yinliu, interpreted the compositions of the Song Dynasty Ci artist Jiang Kui (11 55-1 221 ), based on scores he had found in temples on Mount Wutai and the scores used by Xi'an drum troupes. The method of recording music used by the folk troupes is the same as that used in Tang Dynasty scores discovered at Dunhuang (transcribed in 933 and now preserved in the French National Library in Paris and in japan's Nara Academy) And jiang Baishi's songs. Moreover. these traditional folk scores are still used by folk artists today, and on the basis of them we can interpret identical scores written 1,000 years ago, and reconstruct the original forms of music once thought to be a mystery. Another musicologist did further research, building on Yang's work; based on scores and expositions of musical theory recorded in Tang and Song documents. and using folk instrumental pieces still per formed today, he resurrected the music of those far-off days. Huang Xiangpeng did textual research on Tang Dynasty qu tunes, Such as gazing south of the River music preserved in the Mount Wutai temples, both belonging to the Han and the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, in the four aspects of tonal patterns, tunes, scores and instruments. This shows the importance of the hand-written folk music scores.

Since 1987, musicologists at the Musical Research Department of the Chinese Academy of Arts have conducted a general survey of the Baoding area in Hebei Province, not far from Beijing. They have so far discovered over 80 different manuscripts of musical scores similar to those of Beijing's Zhihua Temple. one example comes from the "music society" of Lihe Willage, Zhanggang Tow, in Baoding's Xiong County on the flyleaf of the manuscript is the following inscription:

52nd year of Qianlong Transmitted by Boddhisattva Chan Master Miaoyin Wang Guanghui 13th year of TongZhi, 1 st month, 1st day, copied again by Wang Pulai and Hu Zhensheng 4th year of the Republic, 1 st month, 1 st day, copied again by Wang Xu and Wang Qinging Edited by Liu jinghui.

This fragment in forms us that the score preserved in Lihe Village was copied in 1915 from a copy made in 1787 by a Buddhist monk Wang Guanghui, which had later been copied by folk musicians of the village, Wang Pulai and Hu Zhensheng, in 1874. The 1915 version was afso the work of village fo1k musicians.

We can also discern that the monk Wang Guanghui played an important role in proPagatjng music among the common people. In addition, the talented monks and priests of the Buddhist and Taoist temples and monasteries played a positive ro1e in spreading music among the peop1e. A further conclusion we can draw is that Chinese folk musicians faithfully adhered to the style of the previous generation of music masters when they transcribed musical scores, and they made careful notes of source of their work. This is true of most of the hand-copied scores of all kinds of music everywhere in China. The 1915 version of this particular score is the third-generation copy, and this makes the music at least 2OO years old: but we know from the name of the piece that it must be much older Traditionally, scholars had to study songs and poems, and compose ci and other types of tunes, and even if they were not all able to transcribe musical scores, they recorded most of the names and kind of tunes of the songs. Based on these documents, Chinese musicologists have come to the conclusion that most of the musical pieces they contain date from the Tang, Song or yuan dynasties. Moreover, since Chinese scholars have an unbroken tradition of vocal music, passed down from master to pupil, they can be basically reconstructed.

Generally speaking, there are differences between the northern and southern styles of Buddhist music: The northern style is vigorous and brisk, plain and easy to grasp, while the southern style is refined and Subtle. One reason for the difference is that they were transmitted by different sects of Buddhism; another is the different styles of folk music prevailing in different parts of the country. In the n0rth of China, the various types of percussion and wind music, and the varieties of flute and pipe music were worked Out mostly by the same orchestras, so the methods of recording the scores and the terminology of the gong tunes were basically the same. These works are very precious gems in the treasure store of Chinese music.

From the above introduction it can be seen that there was a very intimate connection between Chinese religious music, court music and folk music; they interacted with each other to the extent that there is no distinction between them. Renowned scholar Liang Shuming once said, ',China is a country in which ethics takes the place of religion." The attitude of Chinese people to religion is one of straightforwardness verging on indifference: Religious festivals and the celebrations of the ordinary people, market trading activities and life's rituals all blended int0 forms of folk customs and activities. Thus, Chinese scholars call such folk ceremonies and activities which prevailed around the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China "folk religion-'. This is to distinguish them from Western' and lslamic-style religious ceremonies. Furthermore, the music employed to accompany such ceremonies should also be regarded from the same objective viewpoint.

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