A precious recording

Zhihua temple 1954

Inspired by the recent British Museum performances of the new generation of Zhihua temple ritual specialists, I’ve just enriched the playlist in the sidebar (#14) with a haunting recording of the former monks from 1953, with commentary here.

For a roundup of posts on the Zhihua temple and related ritual activity, see here.

15 thoughts on “A precious recording

  1. Thanks for this Dr Jones. I’ve spent many a pleasant moment in the Zhihua temple some 10-15 years ago and have a bunch of CDs, including the ‘Buddhist Temple Music from Beijing’; ‘Buddhist Music of the Ming Dynasty’; ‘Ceremonial Music From the Temple of the Imperial Chinese Court’; as well as a 4 CD box set produced by the temple itself a few years back. I was wondering if there are any other recordings of which you know? Thanks!


    • Much as I admire the present generation, I tend to steer clear of the temple (touristy!), and I’m not up to date with recordings (reified!), but there’s a lot on youtube and Chinese sites. Will write about the 6-cassette yankou set (1986) soon! I hope you read through all the Zhihua temple/Qujiaying posts. cheers


  2. In the end, I still have to keep stressing that the temple is just the tip of the iceberg! Just one among many temples that performed funerals throughout the northeast of the imperial city before 1949, just as Qujiaying and Gaoluo are just two among hundreds of ritual associations on the Hebei plain; and there are similar household ritual groups all over north (not to mention south) China…………


  3. Thanks for the replies. I was under the impression that the imperial court music influence was sort of exclusive to the temple, but I have got your book on order with our library and am looking forward to finding out more.

    “Reified!” – Now there’s a Buddhist joke if ever I saw one!


      • One can hear similar tunings on dizis in very early Kunqu and Jiangnan sizhu recordings as well. I think it has to do with the fact that, traditionally, Chinese flutes had more or less equidistant finger hole spacing–which produces a tuning that, without a lot of adjustment, does not really square with either the sanfen sunyi (Pythagorean) tuning of the court instruments or Western 12-tone equal temperament, as the intervals between 3 and 4 and 7 and i aren’t really semitones and the 3 and 6 are slightly lower than on the dizi as standardized today. I must admit that I was really shocked the first time I heard this recording on the old Auvidis Chuida CD, tuning considerations being only one of the discrepancies with the JVC CD from the early 1990s.


      • Oh, thank you–that is the one I had been referring to, which I thought was on Auvidis (due to the similar white-on-black cover design).


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