Dragon Dance 09-21-2004 16:25

The dragon dance, also known as the dragon lantern dance, is a unique folk dance in China. The performers wave props shaped like a dragon to the accompaniment of drums and gongs, displaying a powerful and majestic momentum.

The image of the dragon appeared in prehistoric times. Each clan adopted the image of an animal as its emblem and this became the clan鈥檚 totem.

The Yellow Emperor, the legendary ancestor of the Chinese nation, adopted the dragon as the totem of his tribe.

The dragon could be long or short, big or small. In spring, the dragon rose high into the air and in autumn, it hid at the bottom of the water. People in ancient China believed that rain was under the control of the dragon. About 3,000 years ago, the dragon dance was performed when people offered sacrifices to Heaven.

HU XIAOWEI (Research Fellow, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences):

In the remote past the dragon dance was performed to pray for rain. In China, agriculture was the base on which to build up the nation. The time and amount of rainfall were very important for harvests. Today we can still see the earliest form of the dragon dance. One family offered a wooden bench. Benches from many families were linked together to form a dragon for performance. Naturally the dragon lantern was the most wonderful.

The dragon lantern was an improved prop of the dragon dance performed when sacrifices were offered to Heaven. About 2,000 years ago, the series of movements used in the dragon dance were established in China. During the Song Dynasty, founded in the 10th century, the dragon was combined with lanterns to form a kind of visual art. The dragon lantern dance became a major item of entertainment during festivals, especially the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month.

The head and body of the dragon are made of bamboo, wood, paper and cloth and painted with pigments. The number of segments of the dragon depends on the number of performers. Usually it is a dozen or even dozens of metres long. When the dragon lantern dance is performed, the dragon head follows the movement of somebody waving a pearl-shaped ball while the dragon body moves forward or backward and turns up and down, displaying various postures of the legendary dragon.


A dozen or even dozens of people perform a dragon dance. Working together to produce the movements is very important. When a huge dragon is dancing vigorously, it is an artistic treat for spectators. The dragon is an emblem of the Chinese nation. It is also an emblem of good harvest, national prosperity and people鈥檚 happiness. So the dragon dance is indispensable for festivities in Chinese communities all over the world.

The dragon dance, a unique folk dance in China, has been popular for centuries. The most important reason is that the dragon represents the spirit of the Chinese nation making unremitting efforts to become ever stronger.

Editor:Xiang Jing

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