You always hear the New Year before you see it. The loud clamoring of jubilant people coming together to celebrate the holiday and the clashing gongs weaved into the driving beat of drums. There’s the warm smell of fried and steamed food that gently washes over. And of course, no Chinese New Year parade is complete without the iconic golden-scarlet lion dances that frolic in the streets.
Five thousand years ago, people were also watching energized lion dance performances in awe. Lion dances are especially important to Chinese people because they symbolize power, wisdom, and superiority. These dances are said to bring good luck and fortune to audience members. The loud beating of drums that accompany these performances is called the “heartbeat of the lion.” The heartbeat leads the other members of its performance: the cymbal and gong.
Lion dances are performed by two dancers in a costume: one in the front to control the head and front limbs, and one in the back to control the hind and back limbs. Together, the two dancers imitate a lion’s movement and sometimes include aspects of martial arts, depending on the style. For example, southern lion dances often mimic a lion’s behavior, such as shaking, scratching, and licking their fur, while northern lion dances are more “gymnastic” and include rolling, jumping, and leaping.
Happy new year, and may this time be like the dancing lions: courageous and exciting.
Lions Dancing in the New Year
A haiku by Angel Liang
Shaking golden fur
And crashing sounds of cymbals
Make “New Year” xin nian.
Editors: Nicole O. Nadine R.