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Tan Dun

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Heaven Earth Mankind (Symphony 1997) (1997)
G Schirmer Inc
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
1 Hour 8 Minutes
Children's Chorus
Solo Instrument(s)
Cello, Bianzhong Bells
Purchase CD
Programme Note
Tan Dun Heaven Earth Mankind (Symphony 1997) (1997)

Ancient Chinese chime-bells, symphony orchestra, cello solo, and children's chorus combine in this large-scale work commissioned to celebrate the reunification of Hong Kong with China.

The symphony is divided into three movements: Heaven explores the traditional past of the Chinese people; Earth explores the equilibrium between nature and the elements; Mankind commemorates those who fought and suffered in wars.

The Bianzhong-chime Bells
These magnificent 2400-year-old bells were discovered in a tomb in Hubei Province in 1978. The 65 bronze bells, arranged in three rows on an elaborate L-shaped frame, were decorated with a gold inlay and depicted dragons, beasts, and flowers. It is believed that it took six people using wooden mallets to make the bells sing. The bells used at the premiere are replicas of those unearthed in Hubei.


  • Ensemble
    Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Imperial Bells Ensemble of China, Yip's Children's Choir
    Yo-Yo Ma
    Tan Dun
    Sony Classical:
Tan has an extraordinary ear for sonority and combinations of sonorities, for finding meeting places and points of departure for the most disparate material, for large-scale structures, vivid characterization, exciting drama, and meaningful gestures.
Richard Dyer, Boston Globe,03/10/1998
This, musically, was the full-body experience: open-hearted music with a widescreen sweep, with funky, pounding, irresistible rhythms…. Visually and sonically I have witnessed nothing like it.
Michael Tumelty, The Herald,05/08/1998
I doubt that any composer has ever serves quite so many master—commercial, political and spiritual—so successfully or so exuberantly in a symphony before.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,30/06/1997
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