No Chinese New year celebration is complete without the traditional lion dance that forms a quintessential part of Chinese culture.
Quite a lot of us might wonder what is the relationship between the lion dance and celebrating the New Year.
As it is with many Chinese traditions, there is a deep symbolism attached to this custom and why it is widely practised across many Southeast Asian communities. After more than a thousand years of its use in China, surrounding countries of Taiwan, Japan, and Korea have adopted this dance into their culture, modifying it in their own ways.
Here’s what you need to know about the significance of the Lion dance during Chinese New year and its symbolism:
According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the lion is a symbol of courage, stability, and superiority. The lion’s dance is primarily performed at the beginning of the Lunar Year to drive negative and evil spirits away from the household. The dance of the lion along with the din of firecrackers, clashing cymbals, and gong and drums that accompany it is believed to scare the monsters, ghosts, evil spirits away.
Lion dances take place during the first few days of the Chinese New Year and are performed by two people manning a special lion dance costume, one at the head of the lion, another at the tail and body of the lion. The head of the lion and its movement of the eyelids are known to bring vitality and longevity, while the tail of the lion sweeps away bad fortune and unpleasant things from last year.
A mirror is attached to the head of the lion which is known to dispel negative energy. Most of the shops and the houses are visited by the lion dance performers which is believed to expel all the bad luck and usher in good fortune.
In Korea, the Lion dance costumes have a flat wooden face and are devoid of the bright colours that decorate Chinese and Japanese Lions. Regardless of the differences, the Korean Lion Dances, like their Chinese counterparts, are performed on similar occasions and for similar reasons, to keep evil spirits away and bring good luck.
The best-known form of the Korean lion dances is the Bukcheong sajanoreum or “lion mask play from Bukcheong”. In this danc, performers may don five different masks including a huge comic lion mask.
The dance is originally performed on every night of first fifteen nights of the lunar New Year, where the dance troupe in lion masks and costumes visit every house in the villages and expel evil spirits and attract good luck for the coming year.
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