Until a Naxi dongjing orchestra held extraordinarily successful concerts in Beijing and Paris in the 1990s, dongjing had been neglected for near half a century. However, the “rediscovery” of dongjing does not necessarily mean a better understanding and preservation strategy, let alone research. With the development of tourism and modernization in Yunnan recent years, dongjing has faced a more serious situation than before. The present project aims to salvage and preserve dongjing archives in Yunnan, whose transcript, music, ritual, and performance reveal classics, literature, religion, social life and regional culture of pre-modern China, which are not available in any other source.
Dongjing refers to a body of Daoist and Confucian texts, which are accompanied with traditional scores and could be sung and played by an orchestra. The dongjing originated in Central China in the 13th century, and diffused into Southwest China in 15th century. Due to enduring political turmoil and social transitions, presently dongjing does not survive except in Southwest China and northern mainland Southeast Asia. Dongjing is best preserved in Yunnan. Though the majority of the texts are Daoist, it is Confucians, instead of Daoist monks, who dominated the compilation and performance of dongjing.
The dongjing archives in north Yunnan take the following form:
- Text transcripts: some are printed by traditional Chinese woodblock method, the majority are manuscripts, owned by temples or individuals.
- Music scores: there exist more than 700 melodies in north Yunnan presently but only less then 100 melodies are recorded, the majority is transmitted in an oral literature manner.
- Wenchanggong (Temple of Literature God): it is the key site for dongjing performance. All the temples are in terrible situation now due to lack of fund. Except few, most Wenchanggong temples have never been recorded in any archive format.
- Rituals: they are closely connected with, but not limited to temples. Rituals were once banned for ideological reason, and recently partly restored, but are reshaped to attract tourists.
- Steles: they are open-aired stored at Wenchanggong, in a neglected situation. Very limited rubbings have been made and stored at county libraries.
- Performances: presently there are two kinds of performance, one, organized by government, is modified to satisfy public audience, and the other, organized by clubs of former dongjing guild members, keeps the tradition. The development of tourism has accelerated the disappearance of the traditional performance. Though the modern performance is frequently recorded or filmed, the traditional is rarely done. Both rituals and performances are now endangered by the development of tourism in Yunnan.
This collection consists of digitised copies of manuscript and audiovisual material collected and created by Lin Huang during his research into Dongjing traditions in Yunnan province over a period of 40 years. The material was digitised as part of the project EAP012 Salvage and Preservation of Dongjing Archives in Yunnan, China: Transcript, Score, Ritual and Performance. The original manuscripts are primarily mimeograph copies of handwritten and wood-block printed music scores, sutras and lyrics. Notes and correspondence written by Lin Huang, Dongjing music societies and other Dongjing music enthusiasts have been included with the scores and sutras. The scores are written primarily in jianpu notation, although a couple are written in guqing notation. The manuscripts date from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. The audiovisual material consists of recordings of Dongjing performances. The original videos were recorded between 1980 and 2004. The performance recordings feature participants speaking in Yunnan dialect Chinese.