Sunday, June 29, 2008

Buddhist Meditation and Religious Traditional Music at Puning Temple. Chengde, China.

Buddhist meditation and religious music are not precisely a scenic experience for themselves but after they are inside of a religious but tourist sight (Puning temple) then they become immediately a scenic experience for any visitor. In this case, that initially touristic experience develops in something extraordinary when the spectator-tourist feels that inherent life coming from those Buddhist monks praying or those traditional musicians playing their instruments, working as any other day they do.

They were doing what they usually do, without any theatrical or even artistic interest, but they had been put on a stage by the tourist officials; so, we could be pilgrims or spectators as we wanted, we’d share their religion or we’d watch an spectacle. This was a extraordinary dichotomy: they were performing and not performing for us because they were simply doing their own job.

First, I could have the experience of watching and listening a big group of Buddhist monks (mostly teenagers) praying and reciting mantras inside a shrine, playing instruments and blessing pilgrims; it was a visual experience yes, but it was specially for the ear and for the mind. I was invited to participate in their meditation, just seating there and listening; my experience first theatrical became spiritual and uniquely total. I didn’t recorded any video during my meditation, of course I didn’t need it.

Buddhist Monks praying at Puning Temple

Some steps up (this temple like any other temple in China is shaped like a hill), face to the Kuanyin of Thousands Arms Shrine, I found a group of traditional musicians working for the pilgrims who wanted to pray to the Goddess with a special musical ambiance.

Traditional instruments and traditional customs, musicians dressed for a theatrical performance. They were in the middle of that mass of pilgrims, playing their religious music, giving an introduction to the Kuanyin’s Shrine entrance.

Traditional Musicians at Puning Temple

Traditional Musicians. Puning Temple. Chengde, China.

This was a refreshing and lively visit after a day before without life, with those huge empty buildings and that wasted Qing style Beijing Opera theatre. I wasn’t anymore inside a museum I was inside of a lively open air theatre.

Chengde was being part of a new perception of my theatrical Chinese experience.

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