Ceremony, even today, often integrates music into the process. Think of the
customary playing of 'Pomp and Circumstance' during a graduation
the National Anthem to begin a sporting event
'Hail to the Chief' announcing the entry of the President of the
various national anthems to salute the medal winners at the Olympic
the Wedding March during a marriage
- or 'Amazing Grace' played on bagpipes during some funeral processions
. This music is all integrated into our understanding of these events, and has become part of many of our current(american) ceremonies.
The Ming Dynasty was no different. Several rituals were performed on a regular basis, and they had accompanying ritual music and dance performances. From AsianArt.org:
Many of the rituals were seasonal, and by the Ming dynasty there was
at least one every month; these rituals took on prescribed forms with
carefully determined and properly performed dance, movement, and
Two of the larger rituals, were the Sacrifice to Heaven, and the Sacrifices to Imperial Ancestors. These were ritual type events, with very specific forms and procedures to be followed.
from wiki on the Temple of Heaven:
In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as the Son of
Heaven, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and
representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to
the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was
extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly
comprising prayers for good harvests.
Twice a year the Emperor and all his retinue would move from the
Forbidden City through Beijing to encamp within the complex, wearing
special robes and abstaining from eating meat. No ordinary Chinese was
allowed to view this procession or the following ceremony. In the
temple complex the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good
harvests. The highpoint of the ceremony at the winter solstice was
performed by the Emperor on the Earthly Mount. The ceremony had to be
perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes
would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year.
Ritual music forms in China are discussed in more detail, including intruements used and a sample audio file, under the heading Yayue.
Yayue (Chinese: 雅樂; literally: "elegant music") was originally a form
of classical music and dance performed at the royal court in ancient
China. The basic conventions of yayue were established in the Western
Zhou. Together with law and rites, it formed the formal representation
of aristocratic political power.