Music of the Ancient Zhihua Temple
The Zhihua Temple was first built in the ninth year of Zhengtong Period of the Ming Dynasty (1444 AD), under the supervision of Wang Zhen, a powerful eunuch of Emperor Yingzong. Later, Wang Zhen made a decision without consulting the emperor to introduce part of court music into the temple and he also formed an orchestra for Buddhist rituals and some folk activities. That was the origin of the ancient Zhihua Temple music.
During the reigns of Emperor Daoguang and Xianfeng in the Qing Dynasty, the music of the Zhihua Temple was gradually spread to areas around Beijing, becoming the typical Buddhist music in the north. It was referred to by some as "Beijing Music". Enjoying a history of over 560 years, the music is honored as "the living fossil of ancient Chinese music".
The music of the Zhihua Temple, complete with gongchi notation books arranged in chronological order, unique instruments, lyrics and tune patterns and accomplished Buddhist players in various dynasties, is one of the oldest existing music genres in China. The gongchi notation books were marked with the year of their composition, with the earliest one composed in the 33rd year of Emperor Kangxi's reign. Throughout the over 560 years of history, there's been no change in the music of the Zhihua Temple.
The music of the Zhihua Temple has its distinctive artistic features, which include the solemn, unsophisticated and elegant style, grand and standardized tune structure, rich playing skills and a big repertoire of music pieces. There are a total of 300 or so pieces of "Beijing Music", only 48 of which have scores today.
The musical instruments are divided into two categories: 1) wind instruments, such as the pipe, the sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) and the flute; 2) percussion instruments, such as Chinese gong chimes, drums, cymbals, big cymbals, clank-sounding instruments etc. The orchestra consists of nine players and fourteen instruments.
The music of the Zhihua Temple faithfully retains the basic style of traditional Chinese music, providing a typical and living source for the studies of the essence and transformation of traditional Chinese culture.