“Rain. Good.”—The Shipping Forecast
Long ago he organized a wonderful festival of “religious music” to take place in Beijing in summer 1989, but it inevitably had to be postponed. With him now “indisposed” for a couple of years, his colleagues at the Music Research Institute managed to reschedule the festival for the following summer—among the many Daoist and Buddhist groups attending was our very own Li family band of household Daoists, led by the great Li Qing (my book pp.174–6).
By 1992 Tian Qing was rehabilitated, but still under a certain scrutiny. One of the groups in the 1990 festival was the “Wutaishan Buddhist Music Troupe”, consisting of (former) Buddhist monks trained at the Wutaishan mountain temples, and I had met some of them on a trip there in 1986. (For “Buddhist music”, and “troupes”, see here and here.)
In collaboration with Tian Qing I was now working with BBC Radio 3 to invite the group to perform for the amazing Spirit of the Earth festival on the London South Bank.
Time was getting short, and the BBC urgently needed the monks’ names in order to get their work permits. So Tian Qing innocently sent me the list by telegram, with no comment—just their eight poetic Buddhist names, that make no obvious literal sense:
Liaoman Liaochong Yunzhi Yunrui Renliang Chengde Xuanping Xuangui
Final and complete final and ample cloudy branches cloudy and auspicious trusty and bright accomplished virtue profound equality profound nobility
We later learnt that the Chinese authorities spent months trying to decipher this cryptic message to a foreigner, convinced it was some counter-revolutionary code.
The UK tour was great, though, and Tian Qing is now an eminent leader and cultural pundit. So that’s all right then.