Though the powerful tradition of taiko drumming in its evolved state has achieved international renown, the humble origins of the Japanese drumming began from a much quieter origin in the Buddhist traditions as the large barrel drum spread from China into Korea and Japan with Buddhism in the 8th century.

In Korea the large barrel drum, that has come to be associated with the athletic performances of Taiko in Japan, can be seen commonly in towers in front of Buddhist temples. During a recent visit to Seoul I had the opportunity to see a routine drum playing by a monk at Bongwonsa temple in Seoul.

At sunset two monks left the main temple hall and played a ten minute session on the large temple drum. The piece was a continual roll of beats as the sticks were moved around in circles forming a figure eight pattern on the drum head. The roll seemed to be a consistent four beat rhythm with regular stresses at the beginnings of the phrase. Occasional playing on the rim and the studs of the drum head punctuated the playing.

After completion of the drumming the monks sounded the temple bell before retiring back to the temple hall.

Drumming seemed to be a form of announcement rather than a meditative or performance purpose.

Though worth seeing, it's rare to see this kind of sight in Korea or Japan for that matter. So rather than introduce you to a place to see it, I'll offer a recording of what the drumming sounded like. For a sample sound snippet from the drumming monk:

For more on Korean Drumming

The Sound of one Monk Drumming