After Chinese dance entered the civilized
society from the primitive times, its development accelerated and got matured
quickly. The Yayue (elegant music) system established in the early
Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century -771BC) was a milestone marking
maturity of the Chinese dance culture.
The rite and music system of the Zhou
Dynasty (11th century - 256BC) was founded on the heritage of the
preceding systems of the Xia (21st- 17th century BC) and
Shang (17th - 11th century BC) Dynasties. As a ruling
measure -- an instrument of education, the status and function of music and
dance art were given unprecedented attention. This part of music and dance is
the so-called Yayue (elegant music) or Yawu (elegant dance), which
would remain the chief part of Chinese music and dance culture. Although it
experienced ups and downs in the following feudal society spanning thousands of
years, it always represented the orthodox trend of music and dance.
The chief content of the dance for
Yayue was the Six Major Dances, or the Six-Dynasty Dances, which
represented six dynasties. The first dance was said to be the Yunmen
(also called Yunmen Dajuan, Xianchi or Chengyun) and it originated
from the legendary ancient Emperor Huangdi. The following parts were the
Dazhang (or Daxian) from the Emperor Yao, the Dashao (or
Dazhao) from the Emperor Shun, and the Daxia (or Xiayue)
from Emperor Yu of the Xia Dynasty, and the Dahuo (also called Sanglin)
from Emperor Tang of the Shang Dynasty. The last dance was Dawu on a
realistic Subject, which reflected the achievements of Emperor Wu who overthrew
Emperor Zhou of the Shang Dynasty and set up the Zhou Dynasty.
These dances disappeared long ago and it's
impossible to find their details nowadays. However, from various legends about
these dances, we can still guess some basic elements of them.