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.