Daoist music

Daoist music
The earliest reference to Daoist music is of the music of ‘pacing the void’ (buxu), said to have been a Daoist imitation of Buddhist hymns composed by Gao Zhi (192–232 BCE) in Yushan (Yiyunji, cf. Hôbôgirin, s.v. Bombai: 96). However, no information is available on the nature of this music. The Daoist Kou Qianzhi (365–448) is said to have established the basis of Daoist music. He restructured the second-century Celestial Master sect (Tianshidao), established elaborate rites and created ‘musical recitation from the clouds’ (yunzhong yinsong), which incorporated singing into scripture performances which had hitherto been ‘straight recitation’ (zhisong). Building upon Kou’s work, Lu Xiujing (406–77) compiled and edited over a thousand Daoist written documents into systematic tomes, thus laying the foundation for Daoist ritual and music.
Daoism reached a peak in the Tang dynasty (618–907) when Emperor Xuanzong (712–56), a keen patron, actively promoted its music. He decreed Daoist priests and court musicians to compose Daoist music for the court; he further composed Daoist pieces and personally transmitted these to the Daoists. The significance of Daoist music in the later Song dynasty courts is seen in the emergence of the still extant collection of fifty Daoist chants, Jade Sounds Ritual (Yuyin fashi; Zhengtong Daozang, vol. 333), thought to have been published in the early twelfth century. The chants were notated in a type of contour notation which continues to defeat scholars’ efforts at deciphering. Another extant collection of Daoist chants, compiled under the auspices of Ming Emperor Zhuli (1403–24), also contained music in the form of gongche notation (Zhengtong daozang, vol. 616).
An important development occurred between 1161 and 1189: Daoist Wang Chongyang established the Complete Perfection (Quanzhen) order in opposition to the early Celestial Masters sect, known by this time as the Orthodox Unity (Zhengyi) sect. These are still the two major sects of Daoism (see Daoism (Quanzhen order) and Daoism (Zhengyi tradition)). Today Quanzhen sect music is on the whole nationally homogeneous while music of the Zhengyi sect is strongly regional, usually closely linked to local musical genres.
Quanzhen Daoism, like monastic Buddhism, is a highly exalted monastic tradition. Quanzhen priests live a collective, celibate and strictly regulated life aimed at self-perfection. Music in Quanzhen Daoism is thus a tool for achieving this goal; its most important context is the daily rituals in which the vocal liturgy is accompanied only by ritual percussion instruments including hand-held gong (dang), cymbals (cha), bells (ling), drum (gu) and woodblock (muyu). This liturgical music is nationally unified and is known as ‘melodies of the Ten Directions’ (shifang yun). However, ‘regional melodies’ (difang yun) also exist in some areas; these are used in Jiao (offerings) or rituals performed for the dead (see Gongde). The collection of hymns nationally adopted by Daoist monasteries today is the Orthodox Melodies of the Complete Perfection (Quanzhen zhengyun). This volume of fifty-six hymn texts is said to have emerged around the seventeenth or eighteenth century. These same texts were reprinted around 1906, in an edition of the Daoist Canon (Daozang jiyao) printed by Erxian-an Monastery in Sichuan, with the addition of a type of percussion score known as dangqingpu (dang and qing being onomatopoeic sounds for the hand gong and cymbals respectively; Shi 1991:2). This type of notation has since become the standard score used in all Daoist monasteries, although the melodies are still transmitted orally. (For a score of Quanzhen zhengyun in cipher notation, see Shi 1991.)
The Quanzhen sect exists mainly in northern and central China. Well-known monasteries are Baiyunguan in Beijing and Qingyanggong in Sichuan, and famous Daoist mountain complexes include Qingchengshan in Sichuan, Wudangshan in Hubei, Laoshan in Shandong, Huashan in Shaanxi and Qianshan in Liaoning. Unlike Buddhist music, which has a rich legacy of instrumental tunes, melodic instrumental music is largely absent from Quanzhen Daoism, although musical instruments are sometimes used to accompany vocal liturgy in offerings and rituals performed for the dead. In contrast, instrumental music plays an important role in the Zhengyi sect.
Zhengyi Daoism is a lay-based sect, also called ‘Fire-dwelling’ Daoism (huoju dao). Priests do not live in monasteries: they lead a normal family life and mainly perform rituals as a profession. This type of Daoism predominates in southern China, although huoju Daoists are also found in northern rural areas.
The music of popular folk Daoism is shared with local instrumental and/or theatrical genres. It is often closely related to the ‘blowing-and-beating’ (guchui/chuida) wind and percussion music of different regions. In the north, Zhengyi Daoists frequently perform shengguan (mouth-organ and reed pipe) music, which is closely related to regional folk genres which are in turn influenced by northern Buddhist music (see Shanxi badatao; Xi’an guyue). In Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, folk Daoist music is linked to Shifan instrumental music (see Shifan (Shifan gu, Shifan luogu)) and Kunqu Xiqu (sung drama/opera). In Yunnan, Dongjing music is also performed by folk Daoists, while in Fujian, the music of the local kuilei (string puppet) theatre and Minnan nanyin instrumental ensemble is borrowed by folk ritual specialists, both Daoist and Buddhist.
Daoist music, both instrumental and vocal, is differentiated by context. The instrumental labelled melodies (qupai) are divided into ‘orthodox pieces’ (zhengqu) and ‘recreational pieces’ (shuaqu). Its vocal liturgy also has two categories: ‘yang melodies’ (yangdiao) and ‘yin melodies’ (yindiao). The zhengqu and yangdiao are reserved for performances before the gods and in rituals of self-cultivation or celebratory contexts, while the shuaqu and yindiao are pieces performed for the souls and spirits in rituals for the dead or for entertaining the living.
The characteristics of Daoist music are revealed in the nature of the two sects. Quanzhen Daoism emphasizes spiritual enhancement and self-cultivation; its music is hence more refined and exalted. Zhengyi Daoism, which focuses more on providing rituals for the populace, draws on lively and popular folk music.
References and further reading
Cao, Benye (ed.) (1996 and currently). Zhongguo chuantong yishi yinyue yanjiu jihua xilie congshu. Taipei: Xinwenfeng chuban gongsi.
Demiéville, Paul (ed.) (1930 and currently). Hôbôgirin: Dictionnaire encyclopédique du Bouddhisme d’aprês les sources chinoises et japonaises. Tokyo: Maison Franco-Japonaise.
Jones, Stephen (1995). Folk Music of China: Living Instrumental Traditions. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. [2nd edn 1998, with CD].
——(1995). ‘Daoism and Instrumental Music of Jiangsu’. Chime 6:117–46.
Lu, Cuikuan (1994). Taiwan de daojiao yishi yü yinyue. Taipei: Xueyi Chubanshe.
Pu, Hengqiang (1993). Daojiao yü Zhongguo chuantong yinyue. Taipei: Wenjin chubanshe.
Pu, Hengqiang and Cao, Benye (1993). Wudangshan daojiao yinyue yanjiu. Taipei: Taiwan Shangwu Yinshuguan.
Shi, Xinmin (1991). Quanzhen zhengyun puji. Beijing: Zhongguo wenlian chubanshe.
Tian, Qing (ed.) (1997). Zhongguo zongjiao yinyue. Beijing: Zongjiao wenhua chubanshe.
Wang, Chunwu and Gan, Shaocheng (eds) (1993). Zhongguo daojiao yinyue. Sichuan: Xinan jiaotong daxue chubanshe.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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