About Lion Dance

Lion Dance

 

Traditional lion dancing can be separated into Northern and Southern lion dance. Northern lion is characterized by furry red and gold outfit or other combination of colors with the lion prancing on huge balls and acrobatic movements. Southern lion does not wear similar outfit but does wear matching colored fabric body/tail and pants.

Southern lion has evolved predominantly into 2 different design and shape: Fó-Shan (buddhist mountain) and Hè-Shan (crane mountain) style, a reference to the original locality in China where the lions were made. Fó-Shan lion is fiercier looking, has a reversed curve mouth and a pointed-end horn on its head, while Hè-Shan lion has a straight mouth, bulb-end horn and a narrower head. Fó-Hè lion is a contemporary offshoot and a combination of the 2 shapes. However, the colors and its significance remains the same. The following colors have traditionally been identified with famous historical individuals and warriors:

 

Multi or 7 colors lion -Liu Bei
Red lion -General Kwan Gung
Black lion -Zhang Fei
Green lion -Zhou Ze Loon
Gold lion -Huang Joon

Lion dancing is a mythical belief, which can be traced back 2000 years ago. There are many different versions as to how lion dancing legend came into being. (A number of the versions are explained in our brother group web site at: www.eastwindfoundation.com. Please visit them). The most popular version surmised that villagers in a village in China were terrorized by unknown beasts annually at or about Chinese New Year. After getting tired of the beasts’ romping, the villagers banded together, made a paper mache look-alike animal of the beast, with cymbals, gong and drums, waited for the arrival of the beast. Upon sight of the beast’s arrival, the villagers approached the beast with its paper mache “lion”, along with the beating of the drum and clanging of the cymbals and gong, were able to drive the beast away, never to be seen again. The event was celebrated with firecrackers and was held to be of great significance and it was believed to symbolize good luck, health and prosperity, driving away all bad and evil omens. This belief spread throughout China immediately, and lion dance has since then become a symbol of all things that are good, while driving away all bad omens.

Over the centuries, lion dancing have been held in such high regard that it is not only performed during Chinese new year, it is also a common sight at weddings, anniversaries, official functions at all levels, parades, grand openings of restaurants and businesses and special events honoring special guests. The lion dance performance generally depicts the lion stalking for food, finds it, and cautiously devours the food, which could be lettuce, orange or other items. He then regurgitates the food and throwing it to the audience, symbolizing blessings by the lion on the audience. “Red packets” or small red envelopes containing money are then offered by the audience to the lion, expressing their gratitude for the blessings.

In recent years, southern lion dance performances have expanded to include acrobatic and highly skilled maneuvers for entertainment purposes. The Ventura County Chinese American Association in conjunction with the Camarillo Kung Fu Club is one of the few groups in Southern California capable of incorporating the acrobatic moves in its lion dance performance.