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China Information >> Folk Culture
 
Lion Dance

 

Lion Dance, which originated from China, are traditional Chinese folk activities and folk dance forms.

Lion Dance, also known as Playing Lion, is a traditional sport activity and a folk art that imitates the movements of lions. In China, people believe that the lion is an auspicious animal and that Lion Dance would bring them good luck. Therefore, Lion Dance will be performed accompanied with sounds of firecrackers and Gongs and drums at the Spring Festival and other ceremonies. Lion Dance has two types, i.e. South Lion and North Lion. The North Lion type is popular in north China, while the South type is popular in south China, especially in Guangdong Province.

 According to textual research, lions in China were originally introduced from West Asia through the “Silk Road”. In Buddhist culture, lion is the animal ridden by Bodhisattva Manjusri that was introduced to China along with Buddhism, together with the real lion dance performed by the animal. Since sending lions to China was no easy job accompanied by hardships, very few lions finally arrived at the destination. Therefore, the real breathtaking lion dance was only limited to the imperial palace and wealthy families, and common people never had the chance to watch it. Therefore, the folk artists created idealized works of lions through imagination according to records or legends, and highlighted the broad forehead, upturned nose and open mouth with traditional divine and auspicious decorations, presenting the mighty force and liveliness of lions. In the lion dance, people perform the role of lions.

Lions play an important role in Chinese mythology, and represent joy and happiness. Lion dances are performed
to bring luck and to get rid of the devil. This tradition can be traced back to a story that took place long ago.

During the rule of the legendary ,Yellow Emperor,, a monster called ,Nien, appeared in China, attacking the men and the animals. It was so fast and fierce that neither the fox nor the tiger could beat it. In despair, the people asked the lion for help. The lion bravely rushed towards the monster and wounded it. The ,Nien, fled, but declared to come back to take revenge.

A year later, the ,Nien, returned. Without the lion,s protection this time, the people produced a ,lion, out of bamboo and cloth. Two men crawled inside and approached the ,Nien,. The ,lion, pranced and roared, driving the monster away again.

From then on, lion dances have become a yearly tradition to frighten evil away during the Chinese New Year.