Chinese Lion Dancing
As one of the traditional folk arts in China, lion
dancing with a history of over 1,000 years has been and still is a popular
recreation for Chinese to celebrate the coming of new year and other big
occasions. Also named "Peaceful Melody" in ancient China, lion dancing was fully
developed in the Tang
Dynasty. It has two traditions, the Northern and Southern styles.
The Northern style of Chinese lion dancing appeared much earlier. It is said
that Emperor Wu in the Beiwei Dynasty (386-534) ordered his captives to dance
for recreation. Pleased with their dance, the Emperor Wu named it as "Beiwei
Lion" and set the captives free. From then on lion dancing spread widely in the
In terms of the Northern style, it is not unusual to have a small lion
performed by one person and a larger one performed by two people. Another person
standing in front of the lions tries to entice them to jump, spring, leap up, or
step on a rolling ball.
There are many different tales about the origin of the Southern style, but
none has historical records. One of the tales says it was Emperor Qianlong
in the Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911) that made the order to dance in the form of lions.
The Southern style is different with the Northern one in that it is much more
gentle. A lot of actions like titillation, shaking, and licking hair showcase
the gentleness. The Chinese consider the lion dance to be a vehicle for
dispensing all the good blessings of heaven to the whole community. It
represents the hopes and aspirations of the Chinese people for all the good
things life holds.