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Lion dance


Lion dance

Lion dance
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 舞獅
Simplified Chinese 舞狮
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 跳獅 or 弄獅
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese múa lân
Chữ Nôm 𦨂麟
Korean name
Hangul 사자춤
Hanja 獅子춤
Japanese name
Kanji 獅子舞

Lion dance (simplified Chinese: 舞狮; traditional Chinese: 舞獅; pinyin: wǔshī) is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion's movements in a lion costume. The lion dance is usually performed during the Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals. It may also be performed at important occasions such as business opening events, special celebrations or wedding ceremonies, or may be used to honour special guests by the Chinese communities.

The Chinese lion dance is often mistakenly referred to as dragon dance. An easy way to tell the difference is that a lion is normally operated by two dancers, while a dragon needs many people. Also, in a lion dance, the performers' faces are only seen occasionally, since they are inside the lion. In a dragon dance, the performers' faces can be easily seen since the dragon is held on poles. Chinese lion dance fundamental movements can be found in most Chinese martial arts.

There are two main forms of the Chinese lion dance, the Northern Lion and the Southern Lion. Both forms are commonly found in China, but around the world especially in South East Asia, the Southern Lion predominates as it was spread by the Chinese diaspora communities who are historically mostly of Southern Chinese origin. Versions of the lion dance are also found in Japan, Korea, Tibet and Vietnam. Another form of lion dance exists in Indonesian culture, but this is of a different tradition and may be referred to as Singa Barong.


  • History 1
  • Regional types 2
    • Chinese Northern Lion 2.1
    • Chinese Southern Lion 2.2
    • Vietnamese Lion 2.3
    • Japanese Lion 2.4
    • Korean Lion 2.5
    • Tibetan Lion 2.6
    • Indonesian Lion 2.7
  • Music and instruments 3
  • Costumes 4
  • Association with wushu/kung fu 5
  • During Chinese New Years and festivals 6
  • Evolution and competition 7
  • In politics 8
  • In popular culture 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • External links 12


Details of the Song Dynasty painting "One Hundred Children Playing in the Spring" (百子嬉春图页) by Su Hanchen (苏汉臣) showing children performing the lion dance.

There has been an old tradition in China of dancers wearing masks to resemble animals or mythical beasts since antiquity, and performances described in ancient texts such as Shujing where wild beasts and phoenix danced may have been masked dances.[1][2] In Qin Dynasty sources, dancers performing exorcism rituals were described as wearing bearskin mask,[1] and it was also mentioned in Han Dynasty texts that "mime people" (象人) performed as fish, dragons, and phoenixes.[3][4] However, lion is not native to China, and the Lion Dance therefore has been suggested to have originated outside of China from countries such as India or Persia,[5][6] and introduced via Cental Asia.[7] According to ethnomusicologist Laurence Picken, the Chinese word for lion itself, shi (獅, written as 師 in the early periods), may have been derived from the Persian word šer,[8] and lions were originally presented to the Han court by emissaries from Central Asia and the Parthian Empire. Detailed descriptions of Lion Dance appeared during the Tang Dynasty and it was already recognized by writers and poets then as a foreign dance, however, the practice of the Lion dance may have been recorded in China as early as the third century AD where "lion acts" were referred to by a Three Kingdoms scholar Meng Kang (孟康) in a commentary on Hanshu.[9][10][11] In the early periods it had association with Buddhism: it was recorded in a Northern Wei text, Description of Buddhist Temples in Luoyang (洛陽伽藍記), that a parade for a statue of Buddha of the Changqiu Temple (長秋寺) was led by a lion to drive away evil spirits.[10][12][13]

There were different versions of the dance in the Tang Dynasty. In the Tang court, the lion dance was called the Great Peace Music (太平樂, Taiping yue) or the Lion Dance of the Five Directions (五方師子舞) where five large lions of different colours and expressing different moods were each led on rope by two persons, and accompanied by 140 singers. In a later version, the 5 lions were each over 3 metres tall and each had 12 "lion lads" who teased the lions with red whisks.[10][14] Another version of the lion dance was performed by two persons, and this was described by the Tang poet Bai Juyi in his poem "Western Liang Arts" (西凉伎), where the dance was performed by hu (胡, meaning here non-Han people from Central Asia) dancers who wore a lion costume made of a wooden head, a silk tail and furry body, with eyes gilded with gold and teeth plated with silver as well as ears that moved, a form that resembles today's Lion Dance.[10][15] By the eighth century, this lion dance had reached Japan. During the Song Dynasty the lion dance was commonly performed in festivals and it was known as the Northern Lion during the Southern Song.

The Southern Lion is a later development in the south of China, most likely originating in the Guangdong province. There are a number of myths associated with the origin of this dance: one story relates that the dance originated as a celebration in a village where a mythical monster called Nian was successfully driven away;[7][16] another has it that Emperor Qianlong dreamt of an auspicious animal while on a tour of Southern China, and ordered that the image of the animal be recreated and used during festivals. However it is likely that the Southern Lion of Guangzhou is an adaptation of the Northern Lion to local myths and characteristics, perhaps during the Ming Dynasty.[17][18]

Regional types

The two main types of lion dance in China are the Northern and Southern Lions. There are however also a number of local forms of lion dance in different regions of China, and some of these lions may have significantly differences in appearance, for example the Green Lion (青獅, Qing1 Shi1) popular with the Hokkien people and Taiwanese.[19][20] Other ethnic minorities groups in China may also have their own lion dances, for examples the lion dance of the Muslim minority in Shenqiu County in Henan.[21][22] There are also related form of mask figures that represent mythical creatures such as the Qilin and Pixiu.[23] The Qilin dance is most commonly performed by the Hakka people who were originally from northern China, but have largely settled in the south of China and southeast Asia in modern times.[24][25]

Various forms of lion dance are also found widely in East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, as well as among the communities in the Himalayan region.

Chinese Northern Lion

Northern Lion in a variety show

The Chinese Northern Lion (simplified Chinese: 北狮; traditional Chinese: 北獅; pinyin: Běi shī) Dance is often performed as a pair of male and female lions in the north of China. Northern lions may have a gold-painted wooden head, and shaggy orange and yellow hair with a red bow on its head to indicate a male lion, or a green bow (sometimes green hair) to represent a female.[26] There are however regional variations of the lion.

Northern lions resemble Pekingese or Fu Dogs, and its movements are lifelike during a performance. Acrobatics are very common, with stunts like lifts, or balancing on a tiered platform or on a giant ball. Northern lions sometimes appear as a family, with two large "adult" lions and a pair of small "young lions". There are usually two performers in one adult lion, and one in the young lion. There may also be a "warrior" character who holds a spherical object and leads the lions.[27]

The dance of the Northern Lion is generally more playful than the Southern Lion. Regions with well-known lion dance troupes include Xushui in Hebei province, and Ninghai in Ningbo. There are a number of variations of the lion dance performance, for example the Heavenly Tower Lion Dance (simplified Chinese: 天塔狮舞; traditional Chinese: 天塔獅舞; pinyin: Tiān tǎ shī wǔ) from Xiangfen County in Shanxi is a performance whereby a number of lions climb up a tall tower structure constructed out of wooden stools,[17] and there are also high-wire acts involving lions.

Chinese Southern Lion

The Chinese Southern (simplified Chinese: 南狮; traditional Chinese: 南獅; pinyin: Nán shī) Lion dance originated from Guangdong. The Southern Lion has a single horn, and is associated with the legend of a mythical monster called Nian. The lion consists of a head which is traditionally constructed using papier-mâché over a bamboo frame,[28] and a body made of fabric trimmed with fur.

There are two main styles of Guangdong or Cantonese Lion: the Fut San or Fo Shan (Chinese: 佛山; pinyin: Fúshān; literally: "Buddha Mountain"), and the Hok San or He Shan (simplified Chinese: 鹤山; traditional Chinese: 鶴山; pinyin: hèshān; literally: "Crane Mountain"), both named after their place of origin. Other minor styles include the Fut-Hok (a hybrid of Fut San and Hok San created in Singapore by Kong Chow Wui Koon in the 1960s), and the Jow Ga (performed by practitioners of Jow family style kung fu).[26] The different lion types can be identified from the design of the lion head.

A Southern Lion Dance performance

Fo Shan is the style many kung fu schools adopt. It requires power in moves and strength in posture. The lion becomes the representation of the kung fu school and only the most advanced students are allowed to perform.

Traditionally, the Fo Shan lion has bristles instead of fur and is heavier than the modern ones now popularly used. It also has a very long tail and eyes that swivel left and right. On the back there are gold foiled rims and a gilded area where the troupe's name may be written. All the traditional style Fo Shan have pop-up teeth, tongue, and swiveling eyes. The underside of the tail is white; the designs of the tail are also more square and contain a diamond pattern going down the back, and often has bells attached to the tail. Although most lion dance costumes comes with a set of matching pants, some practitioners use black kung fu pants to appear more traditional. The newer styles of Fo Shan lions replace all the bristles with fur and the tails are shorter. They eyes are fixed in place, and the tongue and teeth do not pop up. The tail is more curvy in design, does not have a diamond pattern, and lacks bells. The dancers also do not wear wearing kung fu pants. Sometimes the newer versions use a sequin material over the traditional lacquer; while the new lacquer is shinier, it does not last as long as the heavier ones with semi-dull lacquer. Modern lion dance costumes are made to be very durable and some are even waterproof. Newer lions are made with modern materials such as an aluminium and laser stickers, while the traditional ones use bamboo and more durable layered cloth.

The He Shan style lion is known for its richness of expression, unique footwork, magnificent-looking appearance and vigorous drumming style. The founder of this style is thought to be the "Canton Lion King" Feng Gengzhang (simplified Chinese: 冯庚长; traditional Chinese: 馮庚長; pinyin: Féng Gēngzhǎng) in the early 20th century. Feng was born in a village in He Shan county in Guangdong, and he was instructed in martial arts and lion dance by his father. Later, he also studied martial arts and Southern lion dance in Foshan before returning to his hometown and setting up his own training hall, teaching and researching the art of lion dance. He developed a unique version of lion dance, creating new techniques by studying and mimicking movement of cats, such as "catching mouse, playing, catching birds, high escape, lying low and rolling". He and his disciples also made changes to the body of the Fo Shan lion, making it more well-built and powerful in structure with eye-catching colours. Together with new dance steps and agile footwork, a more expressive lion danced to the unique rhythm invented of Feng, the "Seven Star Drum", Feng created a new style of lion dancing that is high in entertainment value and visual appeal. In the early 1920s, the He Shan lion dance was performed when Sun Yat-Sen assumed office in Guangzhou, and created a sensation both within and outside of the province. Around 1945, He Shan lion performers were often invited to perform in many places within China and Southeast Asia during many celebratory festivals. The He Shan style became very popular in Singapore and acquired the title of "Lion King of Kings". Today's He Shan lions have a powerful and impressive build, and has a "king" character () on its forehead and a confident expression. Much work has been done by the Singapore He Shan Association to improve the lion dance, for example making the lion more "cat-like" by shortening the tail of He Shan lion, and creating new drum beat for the dance such as the Fo Shan 18 beats. The He Shan lion is promoted as a tourist attraction in Singapore today, for example in the island resort of Sentosa.

Southern Lion Dance in Sydney

Different colors are used to signify the age and character of the lions. The lion with white fur is considered to be the oldest of the lions, while the lion with golden yellow fur is the middle child. The black lion is considered the youngest lion, and the movement of this lion should be fast like a young child or a headstrong teenager. The colors may also represent the character of the lion: the golden lion represents liveliness, the red lion courage, and the green lion friendship. There are also three lion types that represent three historical characters recorded in the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms who were blood oath brothers that swore to restore the Han dynasty:[29][30]

  • The ; literally: "Auspicious Lion"). Ruì Shī; pinyin: 瑞獅; traditional Chinese: 瑞狮
  • The Guan Gong (Cantonese: Kwan Kung) lion has a red based face, black bristles, with a long black beard (as he was also known as the "Duke with the Beautiful Beard"). The tail is red and black with white trim and a white underside. He is known as the second brother and sports two coins on the collar. This Lion is known as the Xing Shi (simplified Chinese: 醒狮; traditional Chinese: 醒獅; pinyin: Xǐng Shī; literally: "Awakened Lion"). This is a commonly-used lion.
  • The Zhang Fei (Cantonese: Cheung Fei) lion has a black based face with short black beard, small ears, and black bristles. The tail is black and white with white trim and a white underside. Traditionally this lion also had bells attached to the body, which served as a warning like a rattler on a rattle snake. Being the youngest of the three brothers, there is a single coin on the collar. This Lion is known as the Dou Shi (simplified Chinese: 斗狮; traditional Chinese: 鬥獅; pinyin: Dòu Shī; literally: "Fighting Lion") because Zhang Fei had a quick temper and loved to fight. This lion is used by clubs that were just starting out or by those wishing to make a challenge.

Later three more Lions were added to the group. The Green Faced Lion represented Zhao Yun or Zhao (Cantonese: Chiu) Zi Long. The Zhao Zi Long lion is a green lion with a green tail with black trim and a white underside, as well as a white beard and fur and an iron horn. He is often called the fourth brother, this lion is called the Heroic Lion because it is said he rode through Cao Cao’s million man army and rescued Liu Bei’s infant and fought his way back out. The Yellow (yellow/orange) face and body with white beard represented Huang Zhong (Cantonese: Wong Tsung), we was given this color when Liu Bei rose to become Emperor. The Huang Joon has a full yellow tail with white trim. This lion is called the Righteous Lion. The white lion is known as Ma Chao (Cantonese: Ma Chiu), he was assigned this color because he always wore a white arm band to battle against the Emperor of Wei, Cao Cao, to signify that he was in mourning for his father and brother who had been murdered by Cao Cao. Thus this lion was known as the funeral lion. This lion is never used except for the funeral of a Master or an important head of the group, and in such cases the lion is usually burned right after use as it is symbolically inauspicious to be kept around. This lion is sometimes confused with the silver lion which sometimes has a white like colouring. These three along with Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were known as the "Five Tiger Generals of Shun," each representing one of the colors of the five elements.

Vietnamese Lion

Vietnamese Unicorn and Ông Địa at the 2014 Tết Parade in Little Saigon, CA

The lion dance is referred to in Vietnam as the unicorn dance (Vietnamese: múa lân). It was imported from China but has acquired local characteristics. Most lions in Vietnam resemble the Chinese Southern Lion but there are also distinct local forms that differ significantly in appearance and performance. The dance is performed primarily at traditional festivals such as Vietnamese lunar new year (Tết) and Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival (Tết trung thu), as well as during other occasions such as the opening of a new business. The dance is highly symbolic, supposedly used to ward off evil spirits. There are an abundance of styles and the lion dances are typically accompanied by martial artists and acrobatics.

A significant and distinctive feature of the Vietnamese unicorn dance is its dance partner Ông Địa or the spirit of the earth, depicted as a large bellied, broadly grinning man holding a palm-leaf fan. The good-hearted spirit, according to popular beliefs, has the power to summon the auspicious unicorn, and thus during the dance, takes the lead in clearing the path for the unicorn. The comical appearance of Ông Địa adds to the festive and merry-making nature of the dance.[31]

Japanese Lion

Festival of Miyazaki Shrine, Japan

Japan has a long tradition of the lion dance and the dance is known as shishi-mai (獅子舞) in Japanese. It is thought to have been imported from China during the Tang Dynasty, and became associated with celebration of Buddha's birthday. The oldest surviving lion mask, made of paulownia wood with an articulated lower jaw, is preserved in Japan.[32] The dance is commonly performed during the New Year where the lion dancers may be accompanied by flute and drum musicians.

A Japanese lion dance performed by a single person accompanied by flute and drum musicians

The lion dance has been completely absorbed into Japanese tradition, and the style of dancing and design of the lion differs by region. There are many different lion dances in Japan - it is believed that as many as 9,000 variations of the dance exist in the country.[33] The lion dance is also used in religious Shinto festivals as part of a performing art form called kagura. There are two main groups of shishi kagura - the daikagura which is mainly acrobatic, and the yamabushi kagura.[34]

The Japanese lion consists of a wooden, lacquered head called a shishi-gashira (lit. Lion Head), often with a characteristic body of green dyed cloth with white designs. It can be manipulated by a single person, or by two or more persons, one of whom manipulates the head. As with Chinese lions, the make of the head and designs on the body will differ from region to region, and even from school to school. The mask however may sometimes have horns appearing to be a deer (shika), and different Kanji characters also pronounced shishi can mean beast, deer or wild boar, for example as in shishi-odori (鹿踊, lit. Deer Dance). The dance may also sometimes feature tigers (tora) or qilin (kirin).[35]

In Okinawa, a similar dance exists, though the lion there is considered to be a legendary shisa. The heads, bodies and behavior of the shisa in the dance are quite different from the shishi on mainland Japan. Instead of dancing to the sounds of flutes and drums, the Okinawan shisa dance is often performed to folk songs played with the sanshin.

Korean Lion

Korean Bukcheong sajanoreum

There are two main traditions of lion dance in Korea, the saja-noreum, which is performed as an exorcism drama; and the sajach'um which is performed in association with masked drama.[36] The best known of the Korean lion dances is the Bukcheong sajanoreum or lion mask play from Bukcheong. In this dance performers may don five different masks including a huge but comic lion mask.[37] The dance was originally performed every night of first fifteen nights of the lunar New Year, where the dance troupe in lion masks and costumes visited every house in the villages of the Bukcheong region, and the lion dance is meant to expel evil spirits and attract good luck for the coming year.[38] There was also once a court version of the lion dance.[36]

Tibetan Lion

Snow Lion dance of Monpa

In the Himalayan and Tibetan area, there is also a lion dance which is called the snow lion dance. This dance may be found in Tibet where it is called Senggeh Garcham,[39] among the Monpa people in Arunachal Pradesh,[40] and in Sikkim where it is called Singhi Chham.[41][42] The snow lion has white fur, and in Tibet, it may also have a green mane or green fringes, while in Sikkim, the mane is blue.

The Snow Lion is regarded as an emblem of Tibet and the Snow Lion Dance is popular dance in Tibetan communities and it is performed during festivals such as during the ritual dance (cham) festival and the New Year. The snow lion dance may be performed as a secular dance, or as a ritual dance performed by bon po monks. The dance may have a long history in Tibet, but may also have been influenced by Chinese Lion Dance in the Sino-Tibetan borderland.[43]

Indonesian Lion

Barong of Bali, Indonesia

The lion (Indonesian: barong) dance in Indonesia has different forms that are distinct to the local cultures in Indonesia, and it is not known if it has any relation to the Chinese lion.[8] The most well-known lion dances are performed in Bali and Java.

The Reog dance of Ponorogo involves a lion figure known as the singa barong. It is held on special occasions such as the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. A single dancer, or warok, carries the heavy lion mask by his teeth. He is credited with supernatural abilities and strength. The warok may also carry an adolescent boy or girl on his shoulders.

In Hindu Balinese culture, the Barong is the king of good spirits, and the enemy of the demon queen Rangda. Like the Chinese lion, it requires more dancers than in the Javanese Reog.

The Chinese lion dance is referred to as barongsai in Indonesia.

Music and instruments

Musicians accompanying lion dance at Seattle's Chinatown-International District Night Market, Hing Hay Park (2010)

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The Chinese Lion Dance is performed accompanied by the music of beating of drums, cymbals, and gongs. Instruments synchronise to the lion dance movements and actions. Fut San, Hok San, Fut Hok, Chow Gar and etc all plays their beat differently. Each style plays a unique beat. Developments in electronic devices have allowed music to be played via phone/tablet/computer/mp3 player. This has contributed to the evolution of how people can play lion dance music - which eliminates the need to carry around instruments (which can be quite large).


The lion dance costumes used in these performances can only be custom made in speciality craft shops in rural parts of China and have to be imported at considerable expense for most foreign countries outside Asia. For groups in Western countries, this is made possible through funds raised through subscriptions and pledges made by members of local cultural and business societies. For countries like Malaysia with a substantial Chinese population, local expertise may be available in making the "lion" costumes and musical instruments without having to import them from China.

Association with wushu/kung fu

The Chinese lion dance has close relations to kung fu or Wǔshù (武術) and the dancers are usually martial art members of the local kung fu club or school. They practice in their club and some train hard to master the skill as one of the disciplines of the martial art. In general, it is seen that if a school has a capable troupe with many 'lions', it demonstrates the success of the school. It is also generally practised together with Dragon dance in some area.

During Chinese New Years and festivals

During the Chinese New Year, lion dance troupes from the Chinese martial art schools or Chinese guild and associations will visit the houses and shops of the Chinese community to perform the traditional custom of "cai qing" (採青), literally meaning "plucking the greens", whereby the lion plucks the auspicious green vegetables like lettuce either hung on a pole or placed on a table in front of the premises. The "greens" (qing) is tied together with a "red envelope" containing money and may also include auspicious fruit like oranges. In Chinese cǎi (採, pluck) also sounds like cài (菜, meaning vegetable) and cái (财, meaning fortune). The "lion" will dance and approach the "green" and "red evelope" like a curious cat, to "eat the green" and "spit" it out but keep the "red envelope" which is the reward for the lion troupe. The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the business. During the Qing Dynasty, there may be additional hidden meanings in the performances, for example the green vegetables (qing) eaten by the lion may represent the Qing Manchus.[44]

Different types of vegetables, fruits, foods or utensils with auspicious and good symbolic meanings; for instance pineapples, pamelos, bananas, oranges, sugar cane shoots, coconuts, beer, clay pots or even crabs can be used to be the "greens" (青) to be "plucked" to give different difficulty and challenge for the lion dance performers. But the difficulties of the challenge should comes with the bigger the rewards of the "red envelope" given.

Red Chinese lion dance performing a "cai ching" in the Vancouver suburb Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

In the old days, the lettuce was hung 5 to 6 metres above ground and only a well-trained martial artist could reach the money while dancing with a heavy lion head. These events became a public challenge. A large sum of money was rewarded, and the audience expected a good show. Sometimes, if lions from multiple martial arts schools approached the lettuce at the same time, the lions are supposed to fight to decide a winner. The lions had to fight with stylistic lion moves instead of chaotic street fighting styles. The audience would judge the quality of the martial art schools according to how the lions fought. Since the schools' reputation were at stake, the fights were usually fierce but civilized. The winner lion would then use creative methods and martial art skills to reach the high-hanging reward. Some lions may dance on bamboo stilts and some may step on human pyramids formed by fellow students of the school. The performers and the schools would gain praise and respect on top of the large monetary reward when they did well. Lion dance troupes have the onus of giving a good show or face the consequence of an unhappy client.

During the 1950s-60s, in some areas with high population of Chinese and Asian communities especially the Chinatown in many foreign countries abroad China in the world, people who joined lion dance troupes were "gangster-like" and there was a lot of fighting between lion dance troupes and kung fu schools. Parents were afraid to let their children join lion dance troupes because of the "gangster" association with the members. During festivals and performances, when lion dance troupes met, there may be fights between groups. Some lifts and acrobatic tricks are designed for the lion to "fight" and knock over other rival lions. Performers even hid daggers in their shoes and clothes, which could be used to injure other lion dancers’ legs, or even attached a metal horn on their lion’s forehead, which could be used to slash other lion heads. The violence became so extreme that at one point the Hong Kong government banned lion dance completely. Now, as with many other countries, lion dance troupes must attain a permit from the government in order to perform lion dance. Although there is still a certain degree of competitiveness, troupes are a lot less violent and aggressive. Today, lion dance is a more sport-oriented activity. Lion dance is more for recreation than a way of living. But there are still plenty of troupes who still practice the traditional ways and taboos of the lion dance as it is practiced in the past.

In a traditional performance, when the dancing lion enters a village or township, it is supposed to pay its respects first at the local temple(s), then to the ancestors at the ancestral hall, and finally through the streets to bring happiness to all the people.

Evolution and competition

Lion dance in competition may be performed on a series of small circular platforms on poles similar to the ones shown here.

Lion dance has spread across the world due to the worldwide presence of the diaspora Chinese communities and immigrant settlers in many countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Pacific Polynesia, and in particular, in South East Asia where there is a large overseas Chinese presence.

The dance has evolved considerably since the early days when it was perform as a skill part of Chinese martial arts, and has grown into a more artistic art that takes into accounts the lion's expression and the natural movements, as well as the development of a more elaborate acrobatic styles and skills during performances. This maybe performed as a cultural performances or during competitions. This evolution and development has produced the modern form of lion dances and competition are held to find the best lion dance performances. The competition may be performed on a series of small circular platforms raised on poles, and is judged based on the skill and liveliness of the "lion" together with the creativity of the stunts and choreographed moves, as well as the difficulty of the acrobatics, and rhythmic and pulsating live instrumental accompaniment that can captivate the spectators and the judges of the competition.

International Lion Dance championships are held in many countries, for example in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.[45]

In politics

The lion dance is seen as a representative part of Chinese culture in many overseas Chinese communities,[46] and in some South East Asian countries, there were attempts to ban or discourage the dance in order to suppress the Chinese cultural identity in those countries.[47] For example, in Malaysia, lion dance was criticized by a Malay politician in the 1970s as not Malaysian in style and suggested that it be changed to a tiger dance,[48] and it was banned except at Chinese New Year until 1990.[49] Lion dance became a matter of political and public debate about the national culture of the country.[46] During the Suharto era in Indonesia, public expression of Chinese culture was also banned and barongsai (lion dance) procession was considered "provocative" and "an affront to Indonesian nationalism".[50] This ban was however overturned after the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998, but nevertheless the occasional local banning of the lion dance still occurred.[51]

In popular culture

In the 1960s and 1970s, during the era when the Hong Kong's Chinese classic and martial arts movies are very popular, kung fu movies including Jet Li's "Wong Fei Hung" has actually indirectly shows and indicates how lion dance was practised with the kung fu close co-relation and kung fu during that time. Those days, the lion dance was mostly practised and perform as Wushu or kung fu skills, with the challenge for the 'lion' built of chairs and tables stack up together for the 'lions' to perform its stunts and accomplish its challenge.

Several 1990s movies, including a remade version of "Wong Fei Hung", and the sequels of Once Upon a Time in China, involve plots centered on Lion Dancing, especially Once Upon a Time in China III and IV. The series main actor, Jet Li has performed as a lion dancer in several of his films, including Southern style lion dancing in Once Upon a Time in China III, Once Upon a Time in China and America and Northern style lion dancing in Shaolin Temple 2 and Shaolin Temple 3.

See also


  1. ^ a b Fan Pen Li Che (2007). Chinese Shadow Theatre: History, Popular Religion, and Women Warriors. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 64.  
  2. ^ "Shang Shu - Yu Shu - Yi and Ji". Chinese Text Project. 
  3. ^ Wang Kefen (1985). The History of Chinese Dance. China Books & Periodicals. p. 25-27.  
  4. ^ Faye Chunfang Fei, ed. (2002). Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present. University of Michigan Press. p. 24-25.  
  5. ^ Berthold Laufer. Kleinere Schriften: Publikationen aus der Zeit von 1911 bis 1925. 2 v. p. 1444.  
  6. ^ Mona Schrempf (2002), "chapter 6 - The Earth-Ox and Snowlion", in Toni Huber, Amdo Tibetans in Transition: Society and Culture in the Post-Mao Era, Brill, p. 164,  
  7. ^ a b Marianne Hulsbosch, Elizabeth Bedford, Martha Chaiklin, ed. (2010). Asian Material Culture. Amsterdam University Press. p. 112-118. 
  8. ^ a b Laurence E. R. Picken (1984). Music for a Lion Dance of the Song Dynasty. Musica Asiatica: volume 4. Cambridge University Press. p. 201.  
  9. ^ Wilt L. Idema, ed. (1985). The Dramatic Oeuvre of Chu Yu-Tun: 1379 - 1439. Brill. p. 52.  
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  11. ^ 漢書 卷二十二 ‧ 禮樂志第二, Original text: 孟康曰:「象人,若今戲蝦魚師子者也。」 
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External links

  • The Genuine History Of Lion Dance
  • An indepth article on the Chinese Lion Dance
  • Information about Green Lions
  • Additional informations about lion dance
  • The Chinese Lion Dance
  • Malaysia Muar Lion Dance Troupe is World Champion New Straits Times 11 Feb, 1994
  • Korean Insights - Madangguk: Mask Dance-Drama
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