Music has long played an important part in religious culture. In Taoist ceremonies, music serves several different functions. Taoists believe that music is a way to speak to the gods, to inspire religious followers, to achieve inner harmony, and to bring the listener and participant closer to Tao. Tao is the path to enlightenment, the goal and journey of all followers believing Taoism. To follow Tao is to recognize the inner harmony and balance in nature.
Taoist music is played during times of fasting, birthday celebrations for the gods, prayers for good fortune, to subdue and get rid of bad spirits, to release souls from purgatory and many other religious activities. Taoist music is an indispensable component in Taoist fasting ceremonies, for it creates a necessary religious atmosphere, and strengthens the believers' admiration for holy spaces and respect for gods and spirits.
Taoist music contains its own aesthetic theory, both in terms of its patterns and rhymes, forming a very unique musical experience.
The aesthetics of Taoist music reflects the Taoist desire for longevity， quietness and nothingness (to do nothing is to have everything done, inaction, non-doing, inactiveness, desiring nothing ). The rhythm of the music may be solemn and peaceful, to show the majestic vigor of summoning gods and immortals, and powerful enough to express the force and determination to subdue and banish evils. Sometimes the Taoist music is lively and happy to pray for good fortune, praise the gods, or hold a celebration. With these themes running throughout the music, Taoist religious activities become much more complete, divine and mysterious. All kinds of gods’ images may be found in the music, which bestows a chance on humans to catch a glimpse of the mysterious, immortal world of the Taoist deities.
Taoist music is made up of both vocal and instrumental music, and so provides a wide variety of sounds, with many performances, such as solo, chorus, and so on. The lyrics and vocal adornment are a major part of Taoist music in religious rituals, expressing the hope and prayers of those who attend the services, such as pray for blessings from gods and immortals or in giving thanks. The harmonious unification of melody and lyrics, and the perfect integration of all kinds of music patterns make up the whole religious activity.
The instruments of Taoist music include most of the traditional instruments of the Han nationality, such as bell, drum, wooden fish (a Buddhist percussion instrument), pipe, flute, Chinese violin and so on.