Also known as Song of Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress,
Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress 霓裳羽衣舞 was composed between 718
and 720 AD. It was a masterpiece of the Tang Dynasty Daqu (a
type of music popular at that time) featuring the essence of the
Tang Dynasty songs and dances.
Courtesy of the Shanghai News and Press Bureau
Dance of Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress depicts the elegant
dancing movements of fairies in the moon. In the Chinese folk
culture, there are even legends saying that the composition is
from the palace on the moon. The piece is a combination of
homegrown music of the Tang Dynasty and the music of the Western
Regions. Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty was well versed in
music. On hearing the Brahman Melody from the Western Regions,
he was enchanted by the music and recomposed it by adding some
local elements from the central plains. And he renamed the tune
Dance of Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress. The birth of this
piece indicated the large scale and variety of the Tang Dynasty
Daqu. Meanwhile, its artistic expression reflected the great
achievements in the court music of the Tang Dynasty.
It is said that the dancing movements featured in Dance of
Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress were in part based
on those of the flying fairies in Shaanxi and Dunhuang murals.
The dancers are supposed to imitate the postures of fairies,
putting on a marvelous show. Legend has it that the most favored
concubine of Emperor Xuanzong -- Lady Yang Yuhuan (Yang
GuiFei) had extremely beautiful poses when
dancing to the tune. The dancing costume was so gorgeous that
later generations made "rainbow skirt & feathered dress" a
synonym with beautiful clothes.
Dance of Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress was lost after the
An Shi Rebellion. During 1186 AD of the Southern Song dynasty, a
Chinese poet named Jiang Baishi came across 18 sections of music
score of the piece in Changsha. Thus, the score has been handed
down. The score he discovered is the first prelude of Dance of
Rainbow Skirt & Feathered Dress.
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