Collections of Daoist Songs

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"Yuefu" was originally the name of the Han government office in charge of music. For the convenience of singing, the yuefu department compiled poems that could be set to music in books, and these poems were called "yuefu" by the people of the Wei, the Jin and the Six Dynasties. According to The Miscellaneous Records of Yuefu by Duan Anjie of the Tang Dynasty, yuefu poetry was always closely related to song, dance and music. Later, as a style of verse, yuefu came to include verses for singing. In addition, poems created by literati in imitation of the yuefu style also fell under this category. What is called Daoist yuefu is one kind of yuefu. In terms of the author, Daoist yuefu refers to yuefu verses selected and compiled or created by Daoist followers. The Elegant Verses from the Seat of Bliss ( 樂府雅詞 Yuefu Yaci ) compiled by the Daoist scholar Zeng Zao in the Southern Song dynasty is regarded as an early yuefu collection attributed to Daoist followers. The book comprises three volumes, and there is a two-volume of Supplementary Amplifications, which was compiled in the 16th Shaoxing year of the Song dynasty (1146). The former contains the works of 34 persons including Ouyang Xiu, and the latter contains the works of 16 persons, so there are altogether 50 composers. As a category, Daoist yuefu refers to verses that reflect the tendency of Daoist thought in the form of yuefu poetry and are used in Daoist rituals. For example, "Daogong Bomei", collected in the category of "major qu" in Zeng's Elegant Verses from the Seat of Blis, belongs to this category. In addition, the "Songs for Deities ( 神弦歌 Shenxian Ge ) " , "Poems on Pacing the Void ( 步虛詞 Buxu Ci )" , and "Songs from Above the Clouds ( 上雲樂 Shangyun Yue )" in the 12 categories of Guo Maoqian's Collected Yuefu Poems are also Daoist yuefu works. What is called the "Song for Deities" refers to verses of prayer for deities' descent, and here "xian" indicates that this verse is set to orchestral music for singing. The "Poems on Pacing the Void" are eulogies used in Daoist rituals of Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao ); and the "Songs from Above the Clouds" refer to the reverie poetry used in communications between the literati who believe in Daoism and fairies in the art world.


The Daoist yuefu is distinctive in that it combines with the melodies of Daoist ritual music. It reflects the profound Daoist immortal world and has evident romantic features.