Chant for Great Compassion

SSAA div., and narrator, a cappella

At times dreamy, at times pulsing and forceful, this piece is a plea for Chinese goddess Guan Yin ("she who hears the cries of the world") to descend to us and help us through life's difficulties. At its core is the 7th c. Great Compassion Mantra (Dàbei Zhòu), still sung today throughout China for protection, purification, and healing. Woven throughout is poetry by celebrated feminist Qiu Jin and living poet Wang Erbei, as well as Guan Yin's traditional Chinese prayer. Sung in Chinese (transliteration) and English.


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Commissioned By: 
Cornell University Chorus
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Premiere Ensemble: 
Cornell University Chorus
Premiere Conductor: 
Scott Tucker
See video

Belle Voix (Illinois, USA), Cantala from Lawrence University (Phillip Swan, cond.); Cornell University Chorus (Scott Tucker, cond.); Manitou Singers, St. Olaf College (Sigrid Johnson, cond.); Oriana Women's Choir from USC Thornton School of Music (Lesley Leighton, cond.)

Text Author or Source: 
Qiu Jin, Wang Erbei, and traditional 'Great Compassion Mantra'
Chinese and English

Lines written while traveling by boat
Qiu Jin, 1905
I ride the clouds ten thousand leagues,
I left and now return;
My self alone in the eastern sea,
spring thunder at my side.
I cannot bear to see his map,
and so my face grows pale;
How can I let these rivers and hills
return to kalpa ash?
Cheap wine can never melt away,
the sorrow for my nation;
To save this age, we must rely
on talent beyond the common.
For we will risk this blood that flows
from one hundred thousand skulls -
And thus exert the strength to turn
the cosmos back in place.
- trans. Paul Rouzer

Wang Erbei
A precious mirror is shattered... (etc)

Great Compassion Mantra
traditional Chinese
1. na mo ho la da nu do la ye ye,
2. na mo o li ye,
3. po lu je di sho bo la ye,
4. pu ti sa do po ye,
5. mo ho sa do po ye,
6. mo ho jia lu ni jia ye,
7. an,
8. sa bo la fa yi,
9. su da nu da sia,
10. na mo si ji li do yi mung o li ye,