Daoist Music of Suzhou
The Daoist Music of Suzhou has long enjoyed a good reputation and has enriched itself and developed through the dynasties. It absorbs the essence of traditional folk music, especially kunqu opera, and that of the folk music of the south of the Yangtze River, such as music, folk songs and ditties, and mixes the movements of scriptural rhythms of Daoist music with folk music to form a kind of religious music with both the aroma of Daoist music and characteristics of folk music.
Content, form, and features
According to the elder Daoist priest of the Mysterious Sublimity Temple( 玄妙觀 Xuanmiao Guan ), all Daoist music of the temple is handed down by masters who are quite strict with their disciples. Moreover, most of them begin learning and practising diligently from their childhood, so each of them has learned to play several kinds of instruments and achieved a rather high level. In the fourth year of Jiaqing of the Qing dynasty (1799), Cao Xisheng, a Daoist priest of Suzhou, compiled three collections of Daoist music scores, i.e. Sublime Heavenly Music ( 鈞天妙樂 Juntian Miaoyue ), Established Ancient Rhythms ( 古韻成規 Guyun Chenggui ), and Elegant Rhythms of Colorful Costumes ( 霓裳雅韻 Nichang Yayun ). They are the precious materials of the Daoist music of Suzhou. The Daoist sect practised at present in Suzhou is the Orthodox Oneness sect ( 正一派 Zhengyi Pai ) (i.e. the Celestial Masters tradition ( 天師道 Tianshi Dao )), and the Daoist priests of this sect are divided into a civil group and a martial group. The Daoist priesthood of Suzhou is celebrated for the civil group, which is famous for its genius for Daoist music. The main feature of the Daoist music of Suzhou is that the performance of various kinds of instrumental music is skillful. For example, the performance of the major and minor flute music, the slow, middle-speed and quick drum solo, and the ensemble of wind and percussion instruments that is called "Brahmanic Tunes ( 梵音 Fanyin ) ", all display the rich and distinct features of the Daoist music of Suzhou.