Daoist Music of the Central Shanxi Plain
Content and form
Shanxi, or the Central Shanxi Plain of northwestern China, is the birthplace of Daoism where it burgeons and prospers. The Daoist music of Shanxi is composed of vocal music and instrumental music. But now at the Lookout Tower Platform ( 樓觀台 Louguan Tai ), the Eight Immortals Temple ( 八仙宮 Baxian Gong ), and the temples on Mt Hua, there is no instrumental music, but vocal music with accompaniment by Magical Instruments ( 法器 Faqi ).
Vocal music refers to the singing and recitation of scriptural rhythms. The temples mentioned above have continued to use the "Orthodox Rhythm of the Complete Perfection Tradition" ( 全真正韻 Quanzhen Zhengyun ), which is in common use among the Temples of The Ten Directions ( 十方叢林 Shifang Conglin ) of the Complete Perfection Tradition ( 全真道 Quanzhen Dao ). There is no difference between the music of these temples, which are almost completely identical in terms of the manner of singing and recitation and the tunes. The temples are in close contact with each other. If some temple lacks hands when holding great rituals, some other temple will send Daoist friends to assist it. So the temples look like a big family. Owing to such contact among the temples, they become more stable and retain their unity.
Instrumental music has as its chief representative the Daoist music of the White Cloud Mountain of Jia County, in the northern part of Shanxi. Its major form is the ensemble of Chinese wind and percussion instruments. The instruments include sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument), the wind instrument, the sea flute (a small horn), the small drum, the small cheng, the big gong, and so on. The wind instrument and the sea flute are the major musical instruments. The music played includes "Up the Southern Slope", "Lady Liuqing", "Red for Ten Thousand Years", "The Intellectuals", "The Tune of Getting in the River", "Nezha's Order", "The Eight Old Boards", "One and a Half Sentences", "The Buddha of a Thousand Sounds", etc.