CHINESE LION DANCE
The Immortals Awaken Lion Club
HISTORY OF THE LION DANCE
Chinese folklore has many stories of the evolution of the dance. One tale recounts of a peculiar animal which appeared on the eve of Chinese New Year to destroy a small village. On the following year, to protect the villagers from further devastation, they assembled a figurine out of bamboo and cloth which looked identical to the animal. Accompanied by the pounding of drums, clanging of a gong, and clashing of cymbals, the villagers mimicked the ferociousness of the beast and chased it away.
Another legend tells of a playful but mischievous lion in the heavens that angered the jade emperor one too many times. Consequently, the lion was beheaded and thrown down to earth, which was witnessed by the Goddess of Mercy. Taking compassion for the innocent lion, she tied a magical red scarf from its head to its body, bringing it back to life. The lion was indebted to the Goddess of Mercy and vowed to behave and spend all of his time helping others. Thus the lion would roam the earth chasing away evil spirits and bringing good luck and happiness to those who watch it perform.
This evening’s performance is typical of the style of the Guangdong Province and in the gung-fu (kung-fu) tradition (note the intricate footwork and martial-arts postures/stances). The feline movements of the lions are synchronized with that of the lively and thunderous clamor produced by the accompanying drum, gong and cymbals. The combination of the music and lion dancing is intended to “scare away evil spirits so that good luck will follow.” Accordingly, lion dancing marks the celebration of the beginning of a new cycle for such occasions as the Lunar New Year, Grand Openings, Birthdays, Anniversaries and Weddings.
Notable symbolic gestures of the lion dance are:
Entry of the Lions – Typical of cat behavior, curious yet cautious movements characterize the approach of their entry, with much sniffing/”blessing” of the doorways.
Approach to Bridal Couple – Friend or foe? The lions also cautiously approach the bridal couple through sniffing before accepting any offerings.
Blessing of the Bridal Couple – Upon assurance of the bridal couple’s benevolence, the lions then proceed to bless the bride and groom.
Eating of the Greens (“Choy Cheng”) – “Choy” lettuce or any form of a green leafy vegetable, represents wealth/prosperity/luck, enclosed with red envelopes are “fed” to the lions. The lettuce/luck is deliberately strewn about during consumption, symbolizing the dispersion of “blessings for wealth and good fortune.”
Happy Lion – The lions will express their “Happiness” by raising their heads high and shaking it dynamically to show their appreciation.
Three Bows – The lions then present to the bridal couple three bows symbolizing their gratitude for receipt of the “greens.”
Exit of the Lions – Upon completion of the dance and blessings, the lions make their exit, taking care to always back out of the premises, never leaving with their tails facing the bridal couple. This deferential stance denotes the lions’ humility and gratitude to the bridal couple.
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