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Chinese New Year’s – Why a Lion (Dance)?

Why a Lion?  Why not a Duck?  And, Why not a Dragon?  People often think the Lion is really a Dragon.  It’s not.  So, let’s find out what it is all about:

lion-dance-faceThe lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance performed on big occasions, such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) for good luck, as it is believed that the lion is an auspicious animal.  According to traditional Chinese belief, the lion signifies courage, stability and superiority.  There are usually two dancers.  One acts as the head and the other the body. They dance to a drum, cymbals and a gong. On the head of the lion is mirror so that evil spirits will be frightened away by their own reflections.  The lion dance imitates a lion’s various movements or demonstrate martial arts agility, depending on the style.  As the lion runs along the streets he begins to visit different places.  On his way he meets another person, the ‘Laughing Buddha’ who is dressed in monk’s robes and a mask. He teases the lion with a fan made of banana-leaves which makes the lion jump around.

The Origin and History of Lion Dances

Opinions about the origin of the lion dance are widely divided. The most reliable one is this:

In traditional Chinese culture, the lion, like the Chinese dragon, was only an animal which existed in myth, and there were no actual lions in China. Before the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), only a few lions had reached the Central Plains from the western area of ancient China (now Xinjiang), due to Silk Road trade.

lion-dance-closeupAt that time, people mimicked the appearance and actions of the newly arrived lions in a performance, which developed into the lion dance in the Three Kingdoms Period (220–280) and then became popular with the rise of Buddhism in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420–589). In the Tang Dynasty (618–907), the lion dance was one of the court dances.  After that lion dances continued to become a popular performance among the people, to pray for good luck during the Spring Festival or during other celebrations.

Highlights from the International Lion Dance Competition:

Gung Hay Fat Choy!!

Humbly submitted for your consumption,

Mee Magnum  (“Chop!  Chop!”)

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  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this insight. Chinese culture is rich with exciting stories.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lion dance before. It’s an amazing dance 🙂

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