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Shaolin to Debut Zen Musical Feast
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A music show named Zen Shaolin, debuting on October 15, is being rehearsed near the world-famous Shaolin Temple on the Songshan Mountain, Henan Province. Renowned musician Tan Dun has been producing the show and expects to make a visual and acoustical feast, a local newspaper reported on August 31.


According to Dong Fang Jin Bao, the music feast itself has cost almost 100 million yuan (US$12.5 million) to make, including 10 million for sound and 20 million for lighting. The final tally for its stage construction along with big Zen resorts on the mountain will add up to 350 million yuan (US$43.9 million) in total.


The music show, featuring Zen culture, Shaolin kungfu, monks' choirs, temple tolls and natural sound effects, will have four chapters to play out: Water, Light, Wind and Stone. It will be performed by 700 actors and artists at a nearly 100-acre spot in Daixian Valley near Shaolin Temple. Then over 3,000 audiences can sit on cattail hassock enjoying the show while doing Zen meditation in the natural world. To allow its audience to understand and feel the philosophy of "unity of heaven and humanity" is the Zen Shaolin's ultimate goal.


Dong Fang Jin Bao said the main four stages and 90 percent of the crowd site have been finished. The stages face the beautiful chalk mountains and are flanked by several audience halls; 2,226 lights have been installed, including more than 1,000 seven-color LEDs hidden in surrounding mountains, the show creators said.


Academy Award winner Tan Dun, the art director of the show, revealed that some of the world's top sound engineers, visual effects designers and computer music specialists have gathered together to produce a "visual and acoustical miracle."


As he put it, the most unique creation of the show is to use natural "instruments" such as chime stones, flowing streams and the blowing "wind" created from Mongolian hoomi singing, sounds of monks' robes, leaves and papers, and computer-simulation sounds.


"The music feast will also create the first music art education base of Chinese Zen culture." Tan believed that the show has the obligations to publicize the deeper culture from Ancient Middle China and Chinese Buddhism.


Huang Doudou, the show's principal choreographer, said his choreography would always serve the musical pieces.


"Music comes first," he said, adding that the best part of Shaolin Temple is the martial arts. Huang indicated that dance and kungfu have similarities, and the challenge for him is how to combine the two, i.e., how to combine the techniques and the artistry. 


"The Shaolin music show is as wonderful as Shaolin kungfu, and it will be the perfect combination of martial arts and dance," he promised.


Huang also revealed some highlights including Quincuncial Pile Dance, Monks' Water-tap, and 500 Dancers' Stone Dance.


The show is expected to debut its trial performance on October 15, and will be officially and consistently performed from next March, when the landscaping and stage sets will be ready.






(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, September 4, 2006)

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