chapter  10
14 Pages

Buddhist Shengguan Music in Concerts, Festivals, and Recordings

Shengguan wind ensemble performances at Wutaishan fulfill a variety of roles, both sacred and secular. This is true of both ritual and concert performances. Onlookers enjoy the music of rituals just as they do that of concerts, and in many cases, concert performances of temple shengguan music are carried out in a highly ritualized fashion, complete with offerings to the Three Jewels. It is therefore impossible to draw a clear line between sacred ritual performance and secular performance. In China, a variety of musical forms fulfill both sacred and secular functions, as in the case of operatic performances at temple fairs in which secular or semi-sacred opera is presented as an offering to deities.1 The recent trend of using Buddhist mantras in pop music and the creation of techno mixes of Buddhist chants for sale to the general public further blurs the line between sacred and secular music.2 We therefore cannot speak strictly of sacred performance contexts versus secular performance contexts. Rather, we must analyze each performance type to uncover its layers of sacred and secular functions. In this chapter, I shall examine performances of Wutaishan’s shengguan ensembles that are not directly tied to ritual, and then explore the political, economic and spiritual functions these performances fulfill.