Taoist music is applied during the Taoist mass rites, where activities are carried out to celebrate the immortal's birthday, beg for god's blessing, drive away devils and release the purgatory of the departed, etc. It is an essential part in Taoist rites, which can exaggerate the religious atmosphere, and thus strengthen believers' aspiration for the fairyland and their adoration for the immortals.
Taoist music was first utilized in the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), and reached its peak with a big popularity in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). By the Five Dynasties Period (907-960), along with the further standardization of Taoist rites, Taoist music had undergone a big development by adding wind and plucked instruments to the original simple percussion instruments such as bell, L-shaped musical stone and drum. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), string music was also added to Taoist music. And in the Qing Dynasty (1368-1644), the imperial government issued orders to rectify Taoism, and Taoist music was accordingly standardized.
As an ancient religious music, Taoist music is permeated with the basic belief and the aesthetic thought of Taoism in terms of musical form and the connotation of its sentiment, and thus has formed its own unique structure. It is primarily used in praise of the immortals, praying for god's blessing, releasing the purgatory of the departed, and practicing asceticism. Its aesthetic thought reflects the Taoist pursuit of longevity and noninterference, and its melody is solemn and peaceful as well as seclusive and serene. With the foiling of music, Taoist mass rites appear more solemn, peaceful, heavenly and mysterious.
Taoist belief is closely related to the customs of Han nationality, and therefore, Taoist music is also closely linked with the traditional music of Han nationality by borrowing and adopting a lot of melodies and performing skills of court music and folk music. It generally consists of two parts: vocal music and instrumental music, with various forms of performance, such as vocal solo, singing in unison, solo-playing, playing together and accompaniment.