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The Buddhist religion includes many ancient texts, similar to other religions in the world. However, these ancient texts are not traditionally sung, but rather chanted, by the Buddhist monks. The purpose of chanting the texts is to help with the memorization of the Buddha’s teachings and to be able to focus their minds. According to the textbook reading, the Buddhist musical practice remains fairly simple, and a vocal technique used by these monks is called harmonic singing, where multiple pitches are created within a single voice at the same time, thus creating harmony. The textbook also writes how the technique is “physically subtle,” as it requires “precise (and relaxed) positioning of jaw, tongue, and lips.”

Interestingly, as the Buddhist teachings are brought over from India to other countries in the east such as China, there has since been the incorporation of melodic features (where the ancient texts are sung), as well the use of Dharma instruments, including the hand bell, the wooden fish, the Dharma drum, and the singing bowl (Dharma). The incorporation of these instruments, especially the wooden fish, sets a beat for when Buddhist practitioners chant or sing Buddhist texts. The link attached below is a recording of the Buddhist text, “莲池赞 (Lianchi Zan)” in Chinese, showing a practice session for playing the Dharma instruments. The Dharma instruments form a homophonic texture, as they accompany the main melodic line being sung. Depending on if the text is sung or chanted, it can be either syllabic or melismatic, as some texts are chanted in a melodic way (syllabic) and others are sung with drawn-out pitches (melismatic). In this case, we hear a melismatic melody. The text in the video is usually sung at the beginning of a 1 or 2-hour session in temples and acts as an opening to the session, and it can be seen as a way for people to calm their minds for the rest of the session. This text is also usually sung by the practitioners all together, with the person playing the singing bowl leading.

Translation of Title: “Lianchi Zan” Practice

Works Cited

(n.d.). Dharma Instruments Used in Meditation Retreats. Dharma Drum Mountain Global Website. Retrieved November 19, 2022, from https://www.dharmadrum.org/portal_d8_cnt_page.php?folder_id=30&cnt_id=80&up_page=1

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