Arts and Culture
There are three Dunhuang manuscripts on display in the Bibliothèque nationale de France containing musical symbols and notations – P.3808, P.3539 and P.3571. Especially in P.3808, music scores demonstrate a musical notation system including the finger positions on the short lute, rhythm and repetition marks. The three manuscripts are dated around the 9th - 10th century, and the actual producing locations of the three manuscripts are still a matter of discussion. In addition, music scores such as the Tenbyō Biwa score found in Japan contain features, which suggest they were likely created during the Tang dynasty in China, copied and taken to Japan. Interestingly, many of the symbols and notational writing systems found in the Dunhuang musical manuscripts are very similar to those being preserved in Japan.
This paper will firstly introduce the Dunhuang music scores, with an in-depth explanation of the content of the manuscripts, and usage of musical symbols; secondly, the paper will compare and analyse the musical symbols in the Dunhuang manuscripts and the music scores from Japan which were copied during Tang dynasty. This paper aims to explore the process of the copying of music manuscripts from Tang-era China to Japan, with an emphasis on the function of the musical manuscripts. The paper will also attempt to explain the transmission of the musical manuscripts – musical instruments and musical pieces also travelled between Tang China and Japan, in the present Japanese court music system, the musical notation system from Tang China has continued to be preserved.