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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East

Chinese Buddhist Ceremonies

By Stacy Meyn
Published August 1, 2005

Lyrichord

Tibetan Buddhist monks have been on the meditative music forefront for a time now, having done the job of bringing Chinese government oppressors to the world's attention. There are monks in China too, and throughout the early '60s ethnomusicologist John Levy recorded them at the Precious Lotus (Lan Tao Island, Hong Kong) and the Good-Fortune (Tapei) monasteries. His choices specifically outline a day in the life of a monk, from pre-dawn stirrings to day's-end meditation. Sublime selections include the customary 5 a.m. wake-up call, morning services, recitation of the names of the Buddhas, solo chants, liturgies and requiem masses, prayers for souls to be released into the underworld, and reports of the names of the dead. Vocal harmonics cause the spine to tingle from sunrise to sunset, mirroring the transience of life. When Levy visited Tapei again in 1969, all the monks had moved on. Currently, there is a group of Beijing-based monks touring the globe, continuing to deliver the same messages as their Tibetan brethren.