The Guangxuan Art Troupe is made up of over 40 monks and nuns between the ages of 7 and 42 from the Tiantai Temple in the Dabieshan Mountain area of Central China, and its popularity is increasing.
But rather than playing traditional Buddhist instruments, this troupe uses Western instruments such as violins and cellos.
They play classical pieces by Bach and Mozart, and also stage performances like recitals, chorus and dances at the temple. They’ve also been invited to perform for charities.
Several nuns in white robes stand on a high cliff playing violins – they do this on a regular basis at Tiantai Mountain in Hubei Province.
We didn’t have any musical background before entering the troupe. Some of us had even never seen a violin before,” said Shi Zheng Xiaocong, a member of the troupe, to the Global Times.
In addition to their monastic duties, they spend almost seven hours a day learning and practising. Sometimes they hire teachers, but usually some artists offer them free lessons. These include professors from the Central Conservatory of Music.
The classes consist of singing and instrument lessons as well as physical exercise classes, says master Xiaocong.
The troupe seeks to pass on a sense of peace and appreciation for Buddhism through music, and is the first of its kind in China.
“Nowadays, people live a hasty life. They rarely have time to listen to chants or sermons. It would be a good idea for them to feel Buddhism by enjoying music,” said master Shi Wule, the abbot of the Tiantai Temple, in a CCTV documentary.
“We hope to serve more non-religious believers by promoting Buddhism music,” he added.
The troupe was established in 2008, and in the beginning, some accused the troupe of rebelling against tradition for using Western instruments instead of Chinese instruments like the pipa and guzheng.
“Music has no boundaries. Any kind of instruments can display the thought of Buddhism. Diversified forms can make Buddhist music more appealing,” says master Wule. Image/Courtesy of the Tianxuan Art Troupe