Why There is Always a Lion Dance Every Chinese New Year

With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, the time for giant lion costumes and their majestic dance routines has come once again.

The lion dance, often confused with the dragon dance, is a mainstay of traditional Chinese festivities. Locals originally believed that lions only existed in myths, just like dragons, until a few of them showed up before the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD).

Believed to bring about good luck, the lion dance dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280 AD), when people mimicked the appearance and actions of actual lions in performances.

It eventually became popular when the practice of Buddhism rose in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 – 589 AD), China Highlights reported. It was officially a court dance during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD).

The lion dance is performed by only two dancers, according to China Family Adventure. However, they must be very agile to do plenty of acrobatic choreography, which is not exactly easy. One acts as the head and front limbs while the other acts as the back and hind legs.

Lion dances follow percussion accompaniment, which usually consists of cymbals, drums and gongs. The goal is to imitate the lion’s movements.

On celebration day, these “lions” dance in the streets to bring goodwill to everyone watching. They are accompanied by a “laughing Buddha” who teases them into making certain movements. People “feed” them with hong paos or red envelopes containing money.

They also visit business establishments such as item shops and restaurants, which hang vegetables containing similar envelopes from their ceilings. The lions will then have to “pick” and “eat” the envelopes while “spitting” the vegetables as a gesture of spreading good luck.

Have you ever seen a lion dance? Catch one this Chinese New Year!

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