An investigative and documentary study of music and change within a Buddhist community in Christchurch, New Zealand (2002)
The influx of Taiwanese immigrants to New Zealand in the 1980s and 1990s has meant that many aspects of Chinese culture have been transplanted into the Western environment of New Zealand. Because of cultural isolation, many immigrants have attached themselves to ethnic enclaves of Taiwanese people, where Chinese is spoken and the culture is practised. Such enclaves have been created in Christchurch with one particular example based around a Buddhist temple, which belongs to the Fo Kuang organisation of Taiwan. The purpose of this study was twofold. Firstly, to investigate if change had occurred in the liturgical chant, as used in the Christchurch temple, when compared to the chant in Fo Kuang Shan, the Fo Kuang organisation's main temple in Taiwan, and secondly, was to establish reasons for this change to have taken place. A section of the Buddhist liturgy was chosen on which to base the comparison, and recent recordings from both temples were transcribed to gauge what change had occurred in the eight-year period that the Christchurch temple had been geographically separate from Taiwan. Interviews were also held with members of the Fo Kuang's clergy and members of the congregation of the Christchurch temple, to establish their religious background, and their knowledge of the Buddhist faith and music traditions. The transcriptions showed how the Christchurch temple's chant, although possessing a strong resemblance, has separated from the established tradition in Taiwan, and independently developed its own variation. This is mostly a simpler version, slow and unadorned, with several generic characteristics, such as the harmonisation of passages of the chant, which is unusual in a historical tradition that is strictly non-harmonised. The interviews showed how many of the Taiwanese immigrants have a heterogeneous and often confused religious background, extracted from the three main faiths of Chinese culture, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. This has meant that knowledge of the fundamentals of Buddhism and its music practice has been minimal amongst many of the Christchurch temple's attendees, and has caused the chant in the temple to change considerably from its parent tradition in Taiwan.
RightsCopyright Benjamin Le Heux
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