Glory in mind, Chinese monks restart a Buddhist musical odyssey

Xinhua News, Nov 15, 2005

Beijing, China -- To Buddhist Master Longjiang, listening to popular music is an act that infringes upon his faith. Even the great names in classic music are as strange as the world's remotest corner.

"Beethoven?" he shook his head and gazed reporter with a blank face as if reporter were from another planet. "Mozart?" he again shook his head.

"I've never heard about them before," the 80-year-old Buddhist master replied while sitting in a room surrounded by drums at the Grand Xiangguo Temple, a noted Buddhist monastery in Kaifeng, an ancient city along the mud-clogged Yellow River in central China.

When it comes to Buddhist music, however, Master Longjiang was recognized without question as one of the most skillful monks at the monastery that was once known for its band and religious melodies.

First built in 555 AD, the temple, whose current name means the Monastery of Great Assistance to State, has its prestige and influence reach the peak during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and became the intercourse arena for poets, artists, musicians, and the commons and nobles because of its close connection with the royal family and its outstanding music.

Though such devotion and tradition in the temple survived numerous wars, floods and dynasties replacement, the temple's splendor was dilapidated and fell to its bottom in 1927 when warlord Feng Yuxiang, then ruler of Henan Province, ordered his soldiers to expel the monks and turn the site into a market. It became a Buddhist monastery in 1992 again.

To revive Buddhism and reclaim the temple's glory in music, the abbot Great Master Xinguang selected 22 full-time musician monks, mostly young monks older than 15, to reorganize a Buddhist musical band in 2002.

"As part of Buddhist culture," said Master Yuanjie, the band's deputy head, "Buddhist music has its broadness and profoundness, it contains sacred chanting and instrumental music."

"Our temple has a great past in Buddhist music and we just need to pick up the lost part of it," he said, "Master Longjiang is our treasure."

Longjiang is currently the only monk in the band who knows how to play certain musical instruments and read the musical staff.

The instrument Yuanjie mentioned was called "bili", a 20-cm long flute-like tin tube with seven holes. Other instruments used by the band members include wooden fish, tambourine, flute, horn and a Yamaha electronic organ.

"You need some energy to play the 'bili'," said Longjiang, "you can't make a sound if you are not strong enough."

Longjiang once bet Yuanjie, 26, a lunch that Yuanjie couldn't blow the flute-like instrument. And he won.

"It is all a result of hard practice," said the 80-year-old master. He said he heard Buddhist music for the first time when he was 12 and decided to convert to the religion.

Generation difference is evident within the Buddhist band. For example, Longjiang can only read the staff while those young monks only know about the numbered musical scores.

The Nike sock wearing by some young monks and their interest in computer installed with Microsoft's Windows system also reflect their connection to the outside world.

"Compared with our generation, few young people now can endure the hardship during training," Longjiang said. "If you don't give things, you can't get things."

To train those young musician monks, the temple has invested 2 million yuan (about 125,000 US dollars) during the past three years to buy instruments and invited professional musicians to instruct the band.

"To keep its life, Buddhist music must keep its youth," Master Yuanjie said.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: