The Instrumental Music of Wutaishan's Buddhist Monasteries: Social and Ritual Contexts, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Instrumental Music of Wutaishan's Buddhist Monasteries

Social and Ritual Contexts, 1st Edition

By Beth Szczepanski


200 pages

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Beth Szczepanski examines how traditional and modern elements interact in the current practice, reception and functions of wind music, or shengguan, at monasteries in Wutaishan, one of China's four holy mountains of Buddhism. The book provides an invaluable insight into the political and economic history of Wutaishan and its music, as well as the instrumentation, notation, repertoires, transmission and ritual function of monastic music at Wutaishan, and how that music has adapted to China's current economic, political and religious climate. The book is based on extensive field research at Wutaishan from 2005 to 2007, including interviews with monks, nuns, pilgrims and tourists. The author learned to play the sheng mouth organ and guanzi double-reed pipe, and recorded dozens of performances of monastic and lay music. The first extensive examination of Wutaishan's music by a Western scholar, the book brings a new perspective to a topic long favored by Chinese musicologists. At the same time, the book provides the non-musical scholar with an engaging exploration of the historical, political, economic and cultural forces that shape musical and religious practices in China.


'Though primarily an ethnography of contemporary shengguan practice, the book traces this music back to its legendary origins in the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) and follows it through more recent travails in the last two centuries.' Journal of Folklore Research

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Part I The Music of Mañjusri's Mountain: A history of Wutaishan Buddhist music; Wutaishan and its Buddhist music today. Part II Music in Ritual at Wutaishan: Donor-sponsored ritual; Funeral observances; Calendrical observances. Part III Wutaishan's Shengguan Music: Shengguan instrumentation; Notation; Transmission of Shengguan practice; Shengguan repertoires. Part IV Buddhist Music in a Material World: Buddhist Shengguan in concerts, festivals and recordings; The politics of Buddhist music; The business of Buddhist music; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Dr Beth Szczepanski, Lecturer, Ohio State University, USA

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Religious / General