Jablonski, Marek (Michael)


(ii) Continental Asian music



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(ii) Continental Asian music.


The introduction of continental East Asian music and dance, first from Korea and then from China, greatly changed the character of Japanese music. The introduction of Buddhism through Korea in the 6th century also had considerable influence. The first Chinese performing art to reach Japan at this time was gigaku (masked dances and pageants), which were imported by Koreans during the Asuka period (c552–645 ce); the Hōryūji, the world’s oldest surviving wooden building, was constructed during this period. Gigaku was followed by gagaku, which consisted of various kinds of Korean and Chinese court music and dance. These were organized, together with indigenous music, under a government music department called the Gagakur-yō. During this period an important governmental musical event took place as part of the celebration in 749 of the completion of a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha for the Tōdaiji monastery in Nara, then the capital. The Shōsōin, the imperial treasury of the Emperor Shōmu (d 756) in Nara, contains 75 musical instruments of 18 kinds that were used in these ceremonies. They are excellent and rare evidence of the international origins of gagaku, for although some instruments came from Tang dynasty China or Korea, others originated in India, Persia or Central Asia. However, the international features of gagaku were modified to Japanese taste and style when the aristocracy replaced the government as the major sponsor of such music in the early Heian period (794–1185 ce). Buddhist chant (shōmyō), which had its origins in India and was introduced into Japan via China, was another major imported genre of the period.


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