The Chinese dragon dance is one of the biggest attractions from the country of China. Find out about its origins and importance in Chinese culture.
The dragon dance is one of the strangest yet intriguing elements of ancient Chinese tradition. It is a dance performance unlike any other that you would ever get to witness. The dragon dance can be witnessed being performed on important festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The origins of this unique art form can be traced back to the descendants of Shennong. The legendary individual who rose to become the first king to rule over China is also responsible for teaching them medicine, law and agriculture along with the Chinese dragon dance tradition.
The dance performance is conducted by a team that carries the dragon in a line. The lead dancers are the ones that carry the head but they do not engage in much dancing as is commonly perceived. The members of the team that carry the body try and mimic the movements of the dragon creating a harmonious and entertaining visual.
The movements are supposed to symbolize much more than the perceived way the dragon would move. They seek to symbolize the role of the Chinese dragon according to various historical folklores. The entire dance performance is also taken as a symbol of power as well as dignity. Chinatowns across the world witness the dance performance at the event of the Chinese New Year.
As it is the image of the dragon is associated with good fortune. The mythical character is believed to represent fertility, wisdom, power and dignity. Although one may be frightened by the image of a dragon the Chinese do not conceive it to be an evil creature. On the contrary the dragon is considered to be a rather benevolent character which is why it takes the lead during such an important event in Chinese culture.
The dragon dance was patronized during the Han Dynasty. It was a way of revering the image of the dragon which held a special place in Chinese mythology. The dance began amongst the farming class who would perform it as a means of warding off evil in general and diseases in particular from their harvests and homes. They would also perform the dance on various festivals.
The Chinese dragon in the making
Looking at the Chinese dragon dance makes one wonder how the image of the dragon was conceived by the Chinese. In truth the image of the dragon was developed by combining different elements from different animals.
The physical features of the dragon include a pair of eyes from the rabbit coupled with the horns of a stag. It gets its ears from the bull and the claws are inspired by the tiger. The scaly body of the dragon is reminiscent of a fish whereas the long and curvy body is just like that of a snake. The unique combination of physical features also gave the character of the dragon multiple capabilities as it could swim underwater, move on land and fly through the skies as well.
The Chinese have worked hard to maintain the ancient tradition of the dragon dance. Today it is used to attract tourists into the country and is more popular than it ever has been in history.