SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

2: Pu'an Zhou / Incantation of Pu'an

Qin with xiao and muyu.

This piece first appeared as a song with qin zither accompaniment (qin'ge) in the Sanjiao Tongsheng of 1592, under the title "Buddhist Chant" (Shi Tan Zhang). At that time, it had a strong religious flavour with both a Sanskrit text and a Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit alongside the zither tablature. It is possible, then, that the melodies were intended as an aid tin the learning of Sanskrit.

A number of later versions of the piece were titled "Pu'an Zhou". Pu'an was the abbot of a Buddhist temple of the same name, and is mentioned in several hundred historical records. The title 'Pu'an Zhou' has appearing in music for several other instrumental genres, including the Buddhist wind-and-percussion ensemble (in the Zhihua Temple Manuscript Score, 1814), and for pipa solo (Hua Qiuping's Pipa Score, 1818).

The music is serene and meditative, based on a simple pentatonic theme and maintaining a fairly steady tempo throughout. Today, the qin is almost exclusively a solo instrument, but it may be joined by the xiao, or, but even more rarely, the voice.