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Band rejuvenates old Buddhist music
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-08 23:27

Every time Jia Tingxin performs with his band he is realizing the dream of passing on ancient Buddhist music whose original scores were lost 400 years ago.

Jia, 60, lives in Baimiao Village of Beijing's Daxing District and is one of the members of the village band, which is famous for its performances of Buddhist music around the neighbouring villages.

Early this year, Jia and his band were told that the music they play is ancient Buddhist music that is no longer on paper..

An old saying goes that it first came to the Tanzhesi Temple when Beijing was founded. Last year, the temple celebrated its 1,696th anniversary.

Wang Liyu, director of the Administrative Office of Tanzhesi Temple Scenic Spot, said that 400 years ago two monks from the Tanzhesi Temple imparted more than 300 pieces of music to the villagers of Baimiao Village.

"Since then the music scores were passed from generation to generation by the villagers through oral instruction," Wang said. "At the same time, the temple itself has gradually lost operms (music score) of the music as well the tradition of musical performance."

Nowadays, Jia said his band could only perform 70 pieces of the music, which was recorded in the so-called "Gongchi Pu," a traditional way of recording music in China.

Under the invitation of Wang, Jia's band performed the long-lost Buddhist music at the Tanzhesi Temple during the National Day holiday.

Wearing traditional cassocks, Jia and his colleagues put on the concert, playing their instruments with heartfelt emotion.

The major instruments of the band include the sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument), the yunluo (Chinese gong chimes), the cha (small cymbals) and the flute and drum.

Established in 1987, the band has enriched the spiritual lives of local villagers through its performances and bears the weight of traditional Buddhist music, Jia said.

"But fewer and fewer young people are interested in learning the traditional music," Jia said. "Part of the reason lies in the elusiveness of Gongchi Pu, which is hard to learn and remember."

Jia said he hopes the band's performance in the Tanzhisi Temple evoked people's interest in traditional Buddhist music, which is part of Chinese culture.

Jia told reporters that the local district government has decided to apply for "folk cultural heritage" for the village band.

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