Introduction of Music and Dance from Western Regions
During the Wei and the Jin dynasties, social unrest triggered the migration and reintegration of many ethnic peoples. As a result a large number of music and dance from the Western Regions entered the inland areas by way of the Silk Road. Between the years 386-432, Lv Guang of Later Liang defeated Qiuci. Among the trophies there was a complete Qiuci band. Quoted from the Music Chapter of Works for Emperor (Tai Ping Yu Lan) ,the band had twenty musicians and fifteen types of musical instruments including vertical harp, pipa(four-stringed Chinese lute), five strings, Sheng (Chinese wind pipe), flute, panpipe, Tartar pipe, Maoyuan drum, Dutan drum, Sumatra drum, waist drum, Jie drum, chicken basket drum, cymbals, conch, etc.
During the Sui and the Tang dynasties, national unity and economic prosperity offered an enabling environment for court music and dance to prosper. Sui Dynasty established the “nine music” system for banquets and ceremonies, which included music from the Western Regions such as those from Qiuci, Shule, Kangguo, Anguo and Western Liang. On the basis of the Sui Dynasty system, the Tang court added Gaochang music to the list in 642, bringing the country’s highest profile music and dance program into the well known “ten music” system with those from the Western Regions comprising half of it. Among the ten music works, “Qiuci music” was undoubtedly the most influential one, loved by both lords and nobles as well as the common people. In addition to music works, traditional musical instruments from the Western Regions such as pipa, harp, drums, horns and others also radiated special splendor and became important instruments in music performances since the Tang Dynasty.
During the Sui and Tang dynasties, western region dance also gained popularity in inland areas. Western region dance had many styles, the most famous being the Huteng dance, Huteng dance is a male solo dance characterized by flashing turns and jumps, full of masculinity. Huxuan dance is well-known for its rapid spins. As described by the Tang Dynasty poet that the dancer can “spin left and right tirelessly and thousands of rounds without stopping”. Most Huxuan dancers are female. It is said that a superb dancer can spin on a rolling ball. Because Emperor Yuanzong of the Tang Dynasty had special preference for Huxuan dance, ladies in the court all learned to spin on their feet. Even the rebel leader An Lushan who was a national minority from north and west China serving as the military and administrative official and who initiated the “Anshi Rebellion” was an expert on Huxuan dance. Zhezhi dance is a vigorous, fast-paced and dynamic dance. It started off as a solo dance, but later evolved into a pas de deux and group dance.
During the Yuan Dynasty, as members of the imperial family were off springs of ethnic minorities, it was very natural for court musicians to perform musical instruments of Western Regions. Yuan music was divided into two broad categories of major pieces and minor pieces. Among the minors, Dashan (also known as white tail bird) was composed by the famous western region musician Shuo Delv.