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Chinese new year Lion Dance

Updated on February 7, 2016
Chinese New Year 2008 at Chinatown in Vancouver
Chinese New Year 2008 at Chinatown in Vancouver

Lion dance 舞獅

Chinese Southern Lion 南獅 originated from Guang Dong, China, the homeland of the Chinese southern style lion. Chinese Martial Art such as Choy Lee Fut style uses the Chinese Southern Lion 南獅 for the Lion dance. The basic fundamentals of lion dance came from the basic fundamentals of the Chinese martial arts. Normally, the senior students will perform the lion dance to represent their school because of their experience and strength.

The Chinese Southern Lion dance is very symbolic. It is occasionally performed as a ceremony to scare away evil spirits and/or to bring blessing and summon luck and fortune. The Lion dance costumes are traditionally blessed with the "awakening of the lion" act before dancing with them to consider them to be spiritually protective.

The Lion dance’s traditional custom is "cai ching" 採青, literally means "plucking the greens", a quest by the 'lion' to pluck the auspicious green normally 'vegetables' like lettuce which in Chinese called 'cái'(菜) that sound like 'cái' 财 (fortune). Sometimes, there will be small mandarin oranges 'gut' (桔) attached to the 'cái'(菜) to represent luck.

In Tradition, the drums, cymbals, gongs and firecrackers that were used in synchronized to the lion dance movements and actions originated from the villagers’ plan to intimidate the lion by hitting and throwing drums, plates, empty bowls, and firecrackers to cause loud banging noise to scare off the lion from attacking the village.

There are a wide variety of colours for Chinese Southern Lions. They have a distinctive head with large eyes like an eagle. The mirror on the forehead is used to scare away evil spirits and demons. And a single horn at center of the head like the horn of a unicorn.

There are three types of lions that are used during celebrations and ceremonies: the gold lion, representing liveliness; the red lion, representing courage; and the green lion, representing friendship.

The Emperor's Lion and 4 out of the 5 General's Lion. (Missing Ma Chiu Lion - the funneral Lion)
The Emperor's Lion and 4 out of the 5 General's Lion. (Missing Ma Chiu Lion - the funneral Lion)

There are six main Southern Lions. Liu Bei 劉備 was the Emperor. Guan Yu 關羽, Zhang Fei 張飛, Zhao Yun 趙雲(Zhao Zi Long 趙子龍), Huang Zhong 黄忠, and Ma Chao 馬超 were known as the “Five Tiger Generals of Shun” during the Three Kingdoms era.

Liu Bei’s Lion uses the yellow based head with white beard and fur for wisdom and a multi coloured tail representing the blessing of the five elements. This lion is known as the “Shui Shi” Auspicious Lion.

Guan Yu’s Lion uses red base head with long black beard and a red and black tail with white trims. This lion is known as the “Hsing Shi” Awakening Lion.

Zhang Fei’s Lion uses a black based head with short black beard and a smaller ear, and a black and white tail with white trims. This lion is known as the Fighting Lion.

Zhao Yun (Zhao Zi Long)’s Lion uses a green base head with black beard and a green tail with white fur. This lion is known as the Heroic Lion.

Huang Zhong’s Lion uses yellow based head and a yellow body with white fur. This lion is known as the Righteous Lion.

Ma Chao’s Lion uses a white coloured lion. This is known as the funeral lion.

Each Lion represent one of the colors of the five elements – yellow: earth, black: water, green: wood, red: fire, and white: metal.

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      Lion dance 4 years ago

      I lion dance

    • bubiinnovation profile image
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      bubiinnovation 4 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia

      Thank you! This is just a general description of Chinese Lion Dance. There are a lot more tradition and history behind it. I will try to update the hub with some more information later on :)

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Quite an interesting hub! I knew nothing about this 'lion dance' until reading this hub. I also like the use of the Chinese characters within the hub also. The photos are lovely. This is a wonderful description of a historic dance from your country. Well done! Voted up and shared.