China National Traditional Orchestra, Xuanzang’s Pilgrimage, 2018

Tour Dates: 20 July - 24 July, 2018

The China National Traditional Orchestra (CNTO) is a state-level performing arts institution funded by the Ministry of Culture.

Tour Dates
  • 20 July - 24 July, 2018

Tour Information:
20 July, 19:30, Sadler’s Wells Theatre
21 July, 19:30, Sadler’s Wells Theatre
22 July, 16:00, Sadler’s Wells Theatre
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24 July, 20:00, Galway International Arts Festival
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China National Traditional Orchestra

The China National Traditional Orchestra (CNTO) is a state-level performing arts institution funded by the Ministry of Culture. Members of CNTO—comprising an orchestra of traditional instruments and a chorus—are highly-esteemed musicians both at home and abroad. Founded in 1960 under the guidance of the late Premier Zhou Enlai, CNTO’s inaugural President Li Huanzhi (January 1919 – March 2000) was an esteemed composer and Chairman of the Chinese Musicians’ Association. Current president Xi Qiang is an expert performer on bowed string instruments and ethnomusicologist; he is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

CNTO carries the mission of promoting China’s musical heritage. With an extensive repertoire of traditional and new works, CNTO has long contributed to the country’s cultural landscape. Throughout the decades, all of China’s leaders—Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping—and many foreign dignitaries have enjoyed CNTO’s performances, many of which having won high praises. CNTO has visited numerous countries over the years, among them the United States, Mexico, Peru, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Singapore, Korea and Japan.

In recent years, CNTO has produced such iconic full-length programmes as Impressions: Chinese Music, Rediscover Chinese Music, Looking for Dufu, Golden Echoes, Beautiful Rivers and Mountains, Grand Music from China, Bridge to Chinese Music, Cowherd and Weaver Maid, Chinese Music in Splendor, Beautiful Xinjiang, Tibetan Spring, Love Songs in the Moonlight, The Silk Road, Sun Yat-sen and Xuanzang’s Pilgrimage, the world’s first Chinese concert in drama.

Greeting From the Producer / Director
Xi Qiang: Member of CPPCC / Director, CNTO

Xuanzang's Pilgrimage, composed, written and directed by Jiang Ying, resident composer of the China National Traditional Orchestra, celebrated its premiere on July 7th, 2017 in Beijing. Curated and produced by the orchestra, it is a classic repertoire in promoting national music by telling a story from China’s perspective and spreading the voice of China following two previous episodes Impressions: Chinese Music and Rediscover Chinese Music. Meanwhile the work injects innovative transformation and creative development into traditional Chinese music, and it highlights the national character, the confidence and motivation of modern China.

Based on the Tang dynasty legend of high monk Xuanzang’s pilgrimage to ancient India to retrieve Buddhism scripts, the show exhibits Xuanzang’s great spirit of devotion, perseverance and challenge through music and drama performance. Xuanzang's Pilgrimage is inspired by various areas and cultures along the ancient Silk Road. It is a work that is significant in forging cultural exchanges across the Belt and Road region, as well as in developing China’s national orchestral music.

I look forward to a wonderful performance!

Composer, Writer, Director: Jiang Ying
Composer-in-Residence China National Symphony Orchestra

Composer Jiang Ying has devoted her career to the exploration and innovation of Chinese traditional music. In 2010, immediately upon her graduation with a Master’s degree from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, she was appointed composer-in-residence at the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra. Jiang joined the China National Traditional Orchestra as composer-in-residence in 2013. Jiang joined the China National Symphony Orchestra as composer-in-residence in 2018. Among her representative works are Silk Road, Impressions: Chinese Music and Rediscover Chinese Music.

Jiang’s compositions have received accolades at home and abroad; they have also been performed in many countries and regions. Among her various awards are: First Prize in the 18th Ministry of Culture National Composition Competition; Recognition of Excellence in the 9th Golden Bell Award Instrumental Composition Competition; First Prize in the Xiangyin Cup Chamber Music Competition; Gold Award in the 3rd Traditional Orchestra Society’s Traditional Orchestra Composition Competition; and the 2013 Ministry of Culture Young Composer’s Award. Jiang’s The Silk Road has already entered the repertory of traditional orchestras in China and abroad.

Jiang Ying collaborated with director Wang Chaoge in 2013 and 2015 respectively, composing and arranging music for the large-scale productions of Impressions: Chinese Music and Rediscover Chinese Music, garnering praise from audiences all over. Rediscover Chinese Music was nominated for Classical: NEXT Innovation Awards in 2016. Aside from extensive national tours, the two productions were staged at the Kennedy Centre and Carnegie Hall in December 2015. In 2017, Jiang Ying created Xuanzang’s Pilgrimage, a new genre of stage work defined as “a Chinese concert in drama”. She is the composer, librettist and director of her production.

Conductor: Liu Sha
Resident Conductor, CNTO

Resident conductor of the China National Traditional Orchestra, Liu Sha is widely recognized as a leading figure among the new generation of traditional orchestra conductors. To date, he has conducted the China National Traditional Orchestra on its tours to Russia, France, Korea, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany and the United States. As a champion of contemporary music, he has premiered and commissioned hundreds of new works from composers of the younger generation. In the realm of symphonic music, his Russian and East European repertoire has won critical acclaim.

One of the few conductors favoured by the leading politicians in China, Mr Liu has conducted at several state visit and diplomatic occasions including APEC in 2014. He appeared in the Chinese New Year’s Concert in Hawaii in 2013 and at the Pan-Pacific Asian Arts Festival at Stanford in San Francisco. In 2015, he conducted two sold-out concerts featuring music composed by Jiang Ying at the Kennedy Centre and Carnegie Hall.

A graduate of the Central Conservatory of Music, Liu pursued further studies from 2011 to 2014 at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, studying opera and symphonic conducting with Alexander Polishchuk as well as researching the Ilya Musin conducting method. Among his teachers at the master classes are Seiji Ozawa, Mstislav Rostropovich, Jorma Panula, Colin Meters and Gustav Meier.


1. Mahāyānadeva
High and distant mountains are surrounded by misty clouds. Ethereal music originating from 1,400 years ago is heard. It unveils the dust-laden history by exploring the life of a legendary monk holding the noblest title of Mahāyānadeva, or Celestial Being of the Higher Order.

2. Buddhism: Xiao, Recorder and Orchestra
Xiao: Wang Ciheng Recorder: Ding Xiaokui
After the young Xuanzang became a Buddhist monk, he studied Buddhism with his masters. As time went by and his faith held firm, he looked forward and was determined to journey to the west.

3. Desire: Erquanqin, Qudi and Orchestra
Erquan Qin: Jin Yue   Qudi: Ding Xiaokui
A twist of desire makes the difference between heaven and hell. Without desire, the order of Buddhism is preserved. By Hulu River, a Hun in exile was bewitched by evil spirits. Danger was approaching.

4. At the Pass: Xun, Chinese Drum and Orchestra
Chinese drum: Zhu Jianping / Yu Xin    Xun: Fu Qiang
Outside the Yumen Pass, Xuanzang was captured by the regiment holding the fortification. He felt no fear when the drums cast menacing sound. Moved, Captain Wang Xiang vowed to escort Xuanzang to pass.

5. Lost and Seek: Daruan
Daruan: Feng Mantian
Xuanzang was alone passing through the sea of desert. Almost lost, he sought the road to the west. A higher being warned him and asked him to think otherwise. But Xuanzang was determined: “I shall not retreat till I make it to Nalanda, the holy land.”

6. In Danger: Satar, Muqam and Orchestra
Satar: Duan Chao   Tenor: Wang Long
“I am determined to reach the holy land in distance. I know the danger that I am about to face. I am nothing but dust in the bleak and barren land. I shall not fear because of the faith I have.”

7. Pure Land: Dunhuang inspired instruments and Orchestra
Dunhuang Paixiao: Fu Qiang
Xun/Dragon Phoenix    Flutes: Shen Jihui
Dunhuang Sheng: Wu Xuewei / Bao Longfei
Tang Pipa: Meng Xiao    Se: Miao Qing
Pengling: Gao Jie    Slim waist drum: Chen Xiangyang
Lotus Ruan: Wei Yuru / Liu Wei / Pan Yuechen / Zhao Yue
Lotus Xiaoruan: Lyu Li / Liu Niannian
Lotus Daruan: Jia Yishan
Bent neck Pipa:    Dong Xiaolin
Five-string Pipa: Yu Yuanchun
Buddhist chant could be heard, light could be seen as Xuanzang dreamt about the holy land. When he woke up by the Wild Horse creek, he found the clear running water shining under sunshine.

8. Gaochang: Uyghur and Qazaq instruments
Soprano Ghaychak: Adili, Abulizi    Dap:Yiliyaer, Ayoufu
Rubab: Nueryilijiang, Silamu       Dutar: Aerpati, Abulitifu
Tanbur: Muhaimaiti, Rezhayiding   Satar: Abidan, Adili
Dombra: Mureale, Bimulati        Hobez: Jianaerbieke, Aheihati
The King of the ancient nation Gaochang welcomed Xuanzang and treated him with a banquet, joined by the King of Wusun, highlighted by ethnic musicians and their virtuosic playing.

9. Save the Lost: Konghou and Orchestra
Konghou: Wu Lin
The journey was also Xuanzang’s mercy mission to save the lost.

10. Snow Mountain: Tajik folk song and Orchestra
Saytur: Aerpati, Abulitifu   Eagle Flute: Jianaerbieke, Aheihati
Up on the mountain the harsh snow blocked the road and froze the blood. It also expelled all vulgar thoughts. Xuanzang remembered that he was empowered by a group of brave tajik people during this difficult time to continue the journey.

11. The Rite for Heaven: Guanzi, Pipa and Orchestra
Pipa: Zhao Cong   Bass Guan: Niu Jiandang   Soprano Guan: Zhang Jiali
As Xuanzang advanced, he came across a tribe suffering from years of drought where its soil developed erosion and putting its people in jeopardy. When the tribe was about to devote the life of a tribe man to the goddess, Xuanzang learnt and stood out, willing to sacrifice himself.

12. Bodhi: Indian traditional music chanting
Xuanzang was overwhelmed as he set foot on the border of the holy land where sacred fig lined up by the streets and the call of the Buddha could be perceived. Nalanda monks prepared a grand reception to welcome the arrival of Xuanzang.

13. Nalanda: Chinese Orchestra
Suona: Lin Fuguo / Wang Ning / Zhu Dapeng / Yuan Zilin / Yao Di / Wang Rongfei
Enduring hardships and experiencing life and death, a determined Xuanzang eventually reached Nalanda, the holy land of Buddha.

14. Dreamlike: Xiao and Orchestra
Xiao: Ding Xiaokui
The Buddhism script unlocked the secrets. Fantasy and dream aside, it was time to go home.

15. Tang: Chinese Orchestra
The great nation Tang rejoiced upon Xuanzang’s return.

In order of appearance

Guest Artists


Bamboo Flute: Fu Qiang  Ding Xiaokui  Shen Jihui  Sun Shuai
Suona: Lin Fuguo  Niu Jiandang  Shan Wentong  Yao Di  Li Baolin  Wang Rongfei
               Wang Ning  Yuan Zilin  Zhang Jiali  Song Yao  Zhu Dapeng
Sheng: Wu Xuewei  Zhu Rui  Bao Longfei  Mi Wenpeng  Xu Sen  Shao Hongyu  Xue Jinji
Liuqin: Liu Niannian  Lyu Li
Pipa: Zhao Cong  Dong Xiaolin  Meng Xiao  Li Zongli
Dulcimer: Chen Xiangyang  Yuan Ke
Zhongruan: Wei Yuru  Feng Mantian  Chen Guiping  Su ning  Liu Wei  Zhao Yue  Pan Yuechen
Daruan: Cheng Jiapeng  Jia Yishan
Zheng: Miao Qing
Konghou / Harp: Wu Lin
Percussion: Zhu Jianping  Liu Xin  Yu Xin  Ge Xiaotian  Liu Kai  Li Wenbo
Gaohu: Tang Feng  Li Chao  Lu Jianmin  Li Li  Ye Peixin  Hu Huan  Geng Yicong
               Duan Chao  Wang Zhengxiang  Zhu Zixin
Erhu: Jin Yue  Song Lei  Zhao Xin  Lu Shanshan  Zhao Yunyi  Lang Lang    
             Zhang Handong  Li Yuanyuan  Liu Bei  Shang Zujian
Zhonghu: Wang Xuefei  Zhang Juanqi  Zou Hui  Yuan Bei  Zhu Mengdong  Sun Weirong
Cello: Tian Weiyang  Wang Yueling  Jiang Xue  Jia Weibiao  Gao Jie  Zhang Kunming     Wang Yiming
Contrabass: Zhang Hui  Liu Wei  Liu Hao  Yuan Hong  Wen Aiping


Composed, written, directed by Jiang Ying
Produced and Curated by Xi Qiang
Supervised by Wei Jun, Wang Ciheng, Wei Guoan, Zhao Dongsheng, Qiao Aili

Conductor: Liu Sha
Concertmaster: Tang Feng

Choreography: Zhang Jiwen
Lighting: Xing Xin
Artistic Advisor: Feng Xiaoning
Buddhism Advisor: Qian Wenzhong
Executive Director: Wang Yiyun
Costume: A Kuan, Zuo Huanyu

Multi-media: Digital Media Studio of CAFA Design School
Sound Design: Shen Tian
Stage Manager: Ma Guoqing, Yi Daping
Stage Heads: Geng Liang
Copy Writer: Xiao Wenli
Rehearsal Coordination: Gao Xixi
Sound Engineers: Zhang Baiwen, Wu Bofu
Costume Arrangement: Fang Xiao
Logistics: Li Tao, Wang Long, Ma Yu, Luo Feng
Performance Arrangement: Bai Dongwei