Lunar New Year 2021 – It’s lion and dragon dancing!
Part 4 of a CulturalPulse 5-part series on Lunar New Year highlighting the traditions around lion dancing and dragon dancing.
Maxis Chinese New Year video 2021
Part 4 – Lion and Dragon Dancing!
The Lion dance is a form of traditional dance that originated in China where performers mimic a lions movement to ward off evil spirits.
The lion represents power, wisdom, and superiority and is performed to bring a festive atmosphere and bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year.
The movements of the lion dance is based on Chinese martial arts and the dancers perform to to a drum beat.
For Michael Deng, Chairman of Australian Chinese Sports Club, Sydney, lion dancing is an importance element of the Chinese and Lunar New Year traditions:
“I usually spend time with my family and relatives but if I am in Chinatown in Sydney and see the lion dance which is always entertaining to watch then I will pass on a red packet with some money to show my appreciation and to symbolise luck and good fortune.
The main difference between the lion and dragon dancing is that the lion dance is operated by two dancers where one dancer controls the head and the other dancer controls the rear of the lion.
The dragon dance is controlled by many performers moving the dragon up and down with poles.
The dragon represents wisdom, power and wealth and scares away evil spirits and all the bad luck associated with them and brings in good luck and wealth instead.
There are two main forms of the Chinese lion dance and they generally originate from the North and the South of china with other regional variations of the dance in East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Tibet and Vietnam Indonesia and the Himalayas.
The Northern Lion dance is often performed as a pair of male and female lions and was often used for entertaining the Imperial Court. The lions showed more of a lion’s flowing mane.
The Chinese Southern Lion Dance or Cantonese Lion dance originated from Guangdong. They typically have a single horn, and is associated with the legend of a mythical monster called Nian. The origins of the story have families hiding in their homes and preparing a feast for their ancestors and gods in an attempt to keep the monster Nian from terrorising their house. The Lion dances, the beating drums , the clashing of cymbals and firecrackers also helped ward off Nian and the evil spirits.
Details of the painting “One Hundred Children Playing in the Spring” (百子嬉春图页) by Su Hanchen (苏汉臣) from the Song Dynasty.
A Lion Dance traditionally started and ended at temples, where the lions paid their respects to the temple and its deities and the ancestral halls.
Ted Fong, President of the Gold Coast Chinese Club and one of the early founders of ‘Chinatown’ on the Gold Coast, fondly reflects back on how times have changed.
“The lion and dragon dance is usually performed during Chinese or Lunar New Year celebrations The lion and dragon dances are features of street parades in big cities like Hong Kong, and on the Gold Coast for example it is more visible in the famous ‘Chinatown’ districts.
“When I was a teenager there were no fireworks. It was gun powder that made a huge noise.” He adds.
Cecil Huang from the 1688 Media Group in Melbourne says there lion dance is feature of the Lunar New Year festivals in diaspora countries around the world that families, in particular, look forward to seeing:
“Lion dancing is an attraction when we go out to Chinatown in the Melbourne CBD which is always packed or Box Hill Chinese New Year festival which draws thousands each year but due to the pandemic, the festivals have been impacted especially by international tourists.”
Lin K originally comes from Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province, remembers lion dancing at the temples but recalls fire works as part of the Lunar New Year ritual:
“Lion dancing was a part of the festivities during the Chinese New Year but, in Chengdu ,where I came from it was the fireworks that really entertained me.”
Check out the Maxis’ festive film, Little Lion. A seven-year-old boy, aspiring to be a lion dancer in his family’s famous lion dance troupe, is frustrated when everyone in the family is more occupied with daily chores instead of training in a challenging pandemic environment. But as the young boy discovers, wealth and fame are not everything – most importantly, the family stays healthy, together. Lunar New Year that highlights the importance of the feast.
- Lunar New Year – Part 1 – It’s a Family Affair
- Lunar New Year – Part 2 – Connection through Gifts
- Lunar New Year – Part 3 – Food is Heaven
- Lunar New Year – Part 5 – It’s the Lantern Festival
Lunar New Year is one of the largest festivals in the world, spanning 15-days and celebrated in China, South Korea, Vietnam and in East Asian diaspora communities across the world.
Keen to learn more or reach the 1.4 million strong Chinese community in Australia or other Asian markets in Australia? Contact our team at [email protected]