A harmonious society of singing monks

China Daily, Dec 25, 2007

BEIJING, China -- A group of 30 monks will appear on stage tomorrow at the National Center for the Performing Arts to perform the first symphony in the history of Chinese Buddhism, Chinese Harmonious Music (Shenzhou Heyue) with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.

The Sangha Chorus of the Shenzhen Hongfa Monastery will be supported by the China National Opera House chorus and also the Central Conservatory of Music chorus.

"In the West, religious music has a deep influence on symphonic music. I feel very excited combining symphony music with Buddhism, which has existed in China for more than 2,000 years," says Tang Jianping, composer of Chinese Harmonious Music and dean of the Composition Department of the Central Conservatory of Music.

Commissioned by the first World Buddhist Forum, held in April 2006, in Hangzhou, Chinese Harmonious Music is the first symphony in the history of Chinese Buddhism.

After its premiere at the World Buddhist Forum last year, the symphony toured Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in May this year.

Consisting of a chorus, vocal solos and orchestra, the work is divided into five parts: Prelude, Nine Dragons Bathe the Buddha, First Movement, The Lotus-store World, Second Movement, The Great Vow of Mercy and Compassion, Third Movement, Peaceful Zen Joy and Cool Wisdom Breeze, and Fourth Movement, The Lotus Radiance.

The symphony adopts not only orchestral instruments, but also Chinese instruments such as the sanxian (three-stringed lute) and Buddhist instruments such as muyu (wooden block).

Nearly 100 famous monks from China, South Korea and Japan will attend the concert tomorrow, says Xiao Hong, deputy secretary-general of China Religious Culture Communication Association, sponsor of the Chinese Harmonious Music Concert at National Center for the Performing Arts.