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Buddhist Music of Mount Wutai in Shanxi

Buddhist Music of Mount Wutai

Situated in the northeast of Shanxi Province, Mount Wutai is one branch of Taihang Mountains and is famous for its unusual topography consists of five rounded peaks. It is the only one sacred mountain containing both Chinese Buddhism (called Qing Temple) and Tibetan Buddhism (called Huang Temple) in China. Two parts form the Wutaishan Buddhist music, particularly, vocal music and instrumental music. Vocal music is a form of singing the Buddhist texts in ceremonial services, primarily including chant, intone among others. Instrumental music is to employ several instruments to accompany for the Buddhist text or perform solo. The music performed by the instruments is called "xiaoqu (ditty)."

The system recording the Buddist music is Gongche Notation (similar to Western sol-fa), which is passed on by masters' oral teaching. The monks in Mount Wutai are good at tuning with a unique techniques and methods.

During its development of more than two thousand years, Buddhist Music of Mount Wutai introduce many forms like “Zhuandu (to chant the scriptures with languages other than Sanskrit” and “Changdao (to preach Buddhist doctrines and civilize living beings,” and many other music forms since the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties. The most popular operas for morning recitation are Mahakaruna Dharani (a Buddhist sutra containing a spell against lust) and Shurangama Mantra., and the operas for evening recitation is Amitabha Sutra.

Buddhist Music of Mount Wutai is the combination of music art and religion, a special cultural phenomenon in the social development, and an important part of Mount. Wutai Buddhist culture is regarded as the representative of “Northern School,” having a great influence both in the Northern and rest of the country.