Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Cherry Blossom Parade:
The annual Hō-Taikō Hanami Gyōretsu (Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s cherry blossom viewing parade – 豊太閤花見行列) was held at Daigo-ji temple (醍醐寺) in Kyoto, on the 12th of April. While Hideyoshi and his entourage sat on the steps of the Kondō Hall (金堂), different performances where held. One of these was a Bugaku (舞楽) mythical lion dance to the tunes of gagaku (雅楽) music.
Mythical Bugaku Lion Dance:
Bugaku is a court dance and is one of several Japanese traditional dances that has been performed to select elites mostly in Japanese imperial courts for over twelve hundred years.
The title of the bugaku dance was “The King of Lan Ling” (蘭陵王) and is performed to ward off evil. The dance is performed by one man dressed in a colourful robe wearing a mask with a fearsome looking dragon on top.
King of Lan Ling and Bugaku:
The King of Lan Ling (蘭陵王) is one of the four most handsome men in ancient Chinese history. A masterful warrior, he led his army into battle and vanquished his foes while wearing a fearsome mask to hide his beauty. The Prince of Lan Ling’s name is Gao Changgong and he was a famed general during the Northern Qi period. His legend painted him as a generous and loyal person, who treated his soldiers with care and respect.
His most famous battle however was the rescue of the siege of Jinyong (金墉, near modern Luoyang) in 564 A.D. Gao Changgong led only 500 cavalrymen and fought through an army of Northern Zhou, which was attacking the city with 100,000 soldiers. He fought his way to the gates the city, surprising the defenders. The soldiers of Jinyong didn’t recognise him, so he took off his helmet and mask. The soldiers in the city rejoiced at his arrival and were refilled with courage. They opened the gates and joined the battle outside the city. Soon the army of Northern Zhou was defeated.
In order to celebrate the victory, the soldiers composed a famous song and dance “Prince Lan Ling in Battle” (兰陵王入阵曲). This song and the dance are long lost in China itself, however, it was introduced into Japan during the Tang Dynasty and is still being performed in some ceremonies today.
Gagaku Instruments used with a Bugaku Dance: See All Pictures Here!
The hichiriki (篳篥) is a double reed Japanese fue (flute) used as one of two main melodic instruments in Japanese gagaku music.
The ryūteki (龍笛, literally “dragon flute”) is a Japanese transverse fue made of bamboo.
The shō (笙) is a Japanese free reed musical instrument that was introduced from China during the Nara period (AD 710 to 794).
The kakko (羯鼓) is a Japanese double-headed drum.
The shōko (鉦鼓) is a small bronze gong, struck with two horn beaters, used in Japanese gagaku.
The Taiko (太鼓) has a mythological origin in Japanese folklore, but historical records suggest that taiko were introduced to Japan through Korean and Chinese cultural influence as early as the 6th century AD.