Dragon and Lion dances

Many Chinese festivities like Chinese New Year traditionally include Dragon and Lion dances. In the Dragon dance (“wǔ lóng”) up to 50 people use sticks to hold the dragon. Dragon is very important in beliefs of the Chinese. It was the symbol of Chinese emperors. It symbolizes power, wisdom and fertility. Lot of this symbolism can be seen in moves presented by the performers of the Dragon Dance.

Chinese Dragon dance
Chinese Dragon dance

Each dragon is made of wood, bamboo and cloth. Dragon has big head, long body and a tail. In its physical appearance it is actually an interesting combination of several animals. It has horns like a stag. Its ears are those of a bull. It has eyes very similar to those of a rabbit. Its legs have claws of a tiger. Dragon's body is covered with fish scales. Because of all these characteristics dragons can move anywhere they want.

Lion dance (“wǔshī”) is performed by only two dancers. One is in lion's head and the other one in its body. Lion dance has lot to do with luck and fighting evil spirits. It is interesting to mention that on lions head there is a mirror. It is put there as evil spirits are scared of its reflections. Lion dance also includes the character of laughing Buddha. He is dressed as monk. On his face he wears a mask. He carries a fan. He uses it to tease the lion.

Chinese Lion dance
Chinese Lion dance

There are three basic styles of lion dance – Chinese Northern, Chinese Southern and Taiwanese. In Northern Chinese dance there are situations when the performance includes whole lion family – two grown-ups and two young lions. In Chinese southern style of dance there are following lions - Liu Bei, Guan Gong, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun, Huang Zhong and Ma Chao. Taiwanese lions can be open and closed-mouth ones.

When dancing lion visits local temple, ancestral hall and move across streets. Lions are accompanied by an orchestra performing on drums, gongs and cymbals. Lion dance also exists in some other Asian countries. In Japan it is called Shishi-mai. Koreans call it Saja-nori.