Liji is a Confucianist book compiled in the Han Dynasty. It said, "Virtue is the strong stein of (man's) nature, and music is the blossoming of virtue." From this, we can tell that ancient people emphasized the effect of music on one's heart. They used music to facilitate Li (personal conduct and rites), and used music to maintain the social order. Music was often integrated in the teaching of moral standards.
Confucius also paid attention to the moral meaning of music. He said, "Music is the best way to implement changes in people's traditions or habits. Aligning with Li (personal conduct) is the best way to maintain the social order." He believed that music's inner meaning and art form were reflected in kindness and beauty. The reason why music can help guide people is its popularity. Music has tone and rhythm, which touch people's hearts and resonates within. Music is closely related to Li. Music is a reflection of virtue, while Li regulates people's behavior. In traditional Chinese culture, music and Li are merged together into a complete and integral system. This system connects heaven and earth, in accordance with yin and yang, with profound meaning, to regulate everything in human society. People are thus heading towards kindness, and this righteousness leads to long-term social stability.
There are many kinds and many levels of music. Only those tones that resonate in alignment with the Tao can be referred to as music. When inferior music goes against natural laws, allowing unrestrained human nature or desire, it will lead to the degeneration of a person or the destruction of a nation. On the other hand, tones that resonate at high levels are consistent with heavenly laws. When people listen to such music, their minds are lifted and nourished, leading towards virtuousness.
During the Dynasty of Chunqiu (State of Lu period, 722 BCE to 481 BCE), Emperor Weiwenhou asked Zixia, "What is the difference between ancient music and contemporary music?" Zixia said, "In ancient music, tones are passed down from ancient sages and men of virtue, such as 'Xianchi' during the time of Emperor Huangdi, 'Dazhang' during the time of Emperor of Yao, 'Shao' during the time of Emperor Shun, 'Xia' during the time of Emperor Yu, and so on. Those rhythms are regular and solemn and have deep inner meaning. When a gentleman listens to such music, he can understand that the inner meaning of such music is that of worshiping heaven with virtue. He will consider how to improve himself, harmonize with others, lead the nation in a better direction, and bring peace to the world. In contrast, contemporary music is indulgent, since the rhythm is chaotic and superficial, filled with various material desires. It leads people to be decadent or arrogant, with no inner meaning. Most music of this type is from fatuous and self-indulgent emperors or officials. It goes against virtue and cannot be referred to as music."
The moral meaning embedded in music is far beyond music itself. It is also an indispensable cultural component of a society. The style of music reflects its era, such as its morality or degree of political openness. For example, music from ancient sages highlighted the Tao, emphasizing personal improvement and social prosperity. With a peaceful nature, it harmonized people as well as society.
The content and inner meaning of music is the most important. Similarly, the virtue of a musician is more important than his or her skills. Throughout history, the outstanding musicians had a high level of virtue. For example, Shikuang, who lived in the Dynasty of Chunqiu, not only had great musical expertise, but also a high level of virtue. In the music he composed, such as Yangchun and Baixue, the serene and lofty nature presented his noble personality. Many emperors and high officials invited him to perform. Every time he performed, he dressed formally and solemnly in accordance with Li (personal conduct and rites). Then he performed with righteousness, to achieve harmony between mind and body, heaven and earth. When listening to his music, people were bathed in kindness and their spirits were uplifted.
In the realm of art, good music touches one's mind. Through a righteous paradigm, one can gain deeper and higher understandings about life and the universe. In this way, one can become closer to the heavenly way. That is to say, true art originated from divine culture.
Nowadays, Divine Performance Arts is presenting profound Chinese divine culture throughout the world in a most compassionate and beautiful format. People are able to better understand history, life, the universe, and so on. It touches people's hearts, regardless of whether they are from the East or the West, and has gained overwhelming admiration. Today, at this critical moment in time, after hearing the truth, more people are following the path of "Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance" to support righteousness and compassion.
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