Zhihuasi Temple of Beijing

China: Buddhist Music of the Ming Dynasty

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It's important to know the difference between traditional Chinese forms and 20th century Chinese pop. While the latter is heavily influenced by western and American pop -- a female Chinese pop singer could be seriously into Paula Abdul or Britney Spears, even though she's singing in Chinese -- traditional Chinese forms have been around for centuries. In Beijing, one place that is renowned for its Buddhist music is the Zhihuasi Temple, which was built in 1446 back in the era of the Ming Dynasty. At Zhihuasi, monks continue to embrace musical scores dating back to the 16th century, and some of that music can be heard on this 1992 recording. Under the leadership of Hu Zhihou, traditionalists turn their attention to such time-honored scores and give the listener an idea of what he/she could have expected to hear at Buddhist rituals during the times of the Ming Dynasty. The instrumentation ranges from various gongs to the sheng (also called the "bamboo mouth organ"), the di flute, and taigu drums. This captivating, entirely instrumental CD is well worth searching for.

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