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Shomyo got off to a good start in Japan. The first documented performance of this form of Buddhist sutra chanting, originally from India, was before an audience of 10,000 monks and priests at Nara’s Todaiji Temple in 752.

More than 1,200 years later, it survives as one of the oldest extant forms of music in the world. Mind you, Japan also did a pretty good job of forgetting about it. For most of its history, shomyo was among the country’s most rarefied music, confined to temples and heard only by the emperor, clergy and privileged members of the aristocracy.

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