Xijitan Daotang, Xiji County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China (35°53’04.8″N 105°44’35.5″E)
Recorded by Ha Guangtian, March 10, 2015
This is the ritual of liao Mukhmmas at Xijitan Daotang that bears a quintessential shanqu dawr. Xijitan Daotang is perhaps the most important Jahriyya center for the continuation and dissemination of shanqu dawr, at a time when the chuanqu dawr of northern Ningxia is favoured and propagated by the current leader of the order. The difference between these two dawrs is particularly evident in this specific ritual due to the fact that Mukhammas is melodically the most complex of the recited texts among the Jahriyya and the ritual of liao accentuates this critical distinction in terms of musical artistry.
Compared to the same ritual performed at Honglefu Daotang, liao Mukhammas at Xijitan is marked by clear-cut stops produced by an active withholding of voice at the end of each refrain, leaving an extended period of silence that is punctuated by the singular voice of the leader. In this manner, the line between the leading imam and the following disciples is more sharply drawn at the auditory register. The leading reciter in this recording is over 80 years old, though his “spacious” (liang) voice still boasts a pitch and timbre few could rival. It is also remarkable that the students are able to “catch up” with his high-pitched initiation, a challenge that somewhat intimates similar competitions in a singing contest. The ability to perform such challenging recitations is a source of pride for many students.