Daoist music, or Daoist Ritual Music( 道場音樂 Daochang Yinyue ), is the music used in the Daoist activities of Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao ). Its formation and development are closely related to the ancient cult music and the popular music of various regions, so it is religious music with Chinese characteristics and a major part of the Chinese traditional music culture.
Daoist music originates from Shamans ( 巫 Wu ) and Invocators ( 祝 Zhu ), and inherits the tradition that "shamans make spirits descend by singing and dancing". Simultaneously, Daoism attaches importance to prayer cult, i.e. the so-called Altar Offerings ( 壇醮 Tanjiao ). It continually absorbs music from the rites held in imperial temples, as well as music from popular cults to enrich its own religious activities. Thus the Daoist music with the expression of immortalist belief as its core, was gradually formed. Almost all the ritual offerings are accompanied by music. Daoist music has become one of the traditional ways of preaching.
Content and characteristics
Though Daoist music has the expression of immortalist belief as its main content, it did not develop independently. During the process of its development, many social aspects, especially court music and local popular music, have influenced it. Therefore, Daoist music has three major characteristics. Firstly, Daoist music is closely associated with rituals of fasts and offerings and is heavily tinged with religious characteristics. Secondly, since those worshiped are mostly heavenly spirits such as the Emperor of Heaven ( 天帝 Tiandi ), and the music is solemn and respectful, Daoist music absorbs many rhythms and tunes from the cult music of the court. Thirdly, due to the wide penetration of Daoism among the people and the mixing of Daoist music and local music in various places over a long time, to a certain extent Daoist music has features of traditional popular music and local music.