Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

Chinese New Year: When Lions & Dragons Dance

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Chinese New Year

Happy New Year!

One thing I have grown to look forward to at my home during Chinese New Year are the visiting lion and dragon dances. I love the festive mood brought out by the rhythmic, boisterous beat of the big drums and clangs of cymbals.

The origin of lion dance during Chinese New Year is thought to have started through a legend where a mythical beast called a Nian (meaning year in Chinese) would come and attack villagers at the same time every year. The villagers asked for the help of a great colourful lion spirit, who came and drove the Nian away with much noise. The following year, the people were left defenseless as the lion was away defending the Emperor’s Palace. The people improvised and created a false lion out of cloth and bamboo along with noisy firecrackers to drive the Nian away. This was so successful that every year since then, the lion dance is performed to frighten away evil spirits and bring luck in with the New Year.

The lion is regarded as the king of the forest and of the other animals. It has thus long been used as a symbol of power and grandeur, and believed to offer protection from evil spirits. The lion dance is now commonly used as a symbol of auspiciousness to mark key dates such as Chinese New Year or the opening of a new business. Throughout the performance, the lion will mimic various moods and demonstrate similar physical gestures allowing the Lion to look life-like. The lion dance combines art, history and kung fu moves. A group of lion dancers consists of about 10 people.

Chinese New Year

A lion dance is preformed by two people – one at the head of the lion, one at the tail. The lion head is made out of papier mâché and the batting of the lion’s eyelids, as well as the movement of the head and mouth are supposed to enhance the lion’s 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. Mirrors are believed to expel negative energy, evil and bad spirits, since negative energy would be reflected backwards, evil spirit would be frightened by their own appearance when looking into the mirror and hence would disappear.

Chinese New Year

Let’s take a dip! :)

Chinese New Year

Lion on the left: Errrrm, do I reallly have to peel these oranges?
Lion on the right: Dude, I have peeled the last 280 oranges at the past dances. You are so doing this one!

Chinese New Year

The dramatic climax of the lion dance is the “Cai Qing 採青” or ‘Picking the Green’. The green here refers to vegetable leaves which are tied to a piece of string which also has a red packet attached containing money. The string is hung at a high spot such as on a tree or above the door of a shop or home), and the lion ‘eats’ both, the leaves and the red packet.

Chinese New Year

The moment everyone is waiting for – No, not to eat oranges, but to get lucky numbers.
After the lion ‘devours’ the oranges, it lies on the floor to chew the leaves and peel oranges while the musicians play a dramatic rolling crescendo. The lull is broken as the lion explodes back into activity, spitting out the leaves. This is a symbolic act of blessing by the lion, with the spitting out of the leaves signifying that there will be an abundance of everything in the coming year. The oranges are also arranged in a way to give four lucky numbers to buy lottery. I couldn’t make out what these numbers are though. Let me know if you do – we’ll share the winnings, heh.

Chinese New Year

The chairperson of the residential committee (he would have been village head in olden times) receiving the lucky scroll and fortune leek from the lion. I always wondered what they did with the leek afterwards, cook and eat it…or display in a cupboard for the entire year?

Chinese New Year

The lions used to be much revered, but in modern times they have become so accessible, cute and fluffy like puppies that children just flock to them in a swarm and smack them on the head and pull their fur. If it was a real lion, I think it would have gone bersek or died of shock. Poor thing.

Patting Zoo. Pat Pat Pat for good luck!

Chinese New Year

Just in the right costume
Lions nowadays come in an array of colours, and even LED ones. Traditionally, the appearance of the lion has a symbolism to it as interpreted by the Five Elements theory, auspicious colours, ba gua and Feng Shui.

Chinese New Year

Can I keep them as pets, Mummy?

Come again next year my dear kitties!

Author: spunktitud3

A little post by a fun-loving spunky gal in love with the quirky, the artsy and anything which inspires new creations. Read about her adventures on: spunktitud3.wordpress.com

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