Lion Dance and Dragon Dance, which originated from China, are traditional Chinese folk activities and folk dance forms.
Lion Dance, also known as Playing Lion, is a traditional sport activity that imitates the movements of lions. In China, people believe that the lion is an auspicious animal and that Lion Dance would bring them good luck. Therefore, Lion Dance will be performed accompanied with sounds of firecrackers and Gongs and drums at the Spring Festival and other ceremonies.
According to textual research, lions in China were originally introduced from West Asia through the “Silk Road”. In Buddhist culture, lion is the animal ridden by Bodhisattva Manjusri that was introduced to China along with Buddhism, together with the real lion dance performed by the animal.
Since sending lions to China was no easy job accompanied by hardships, very few lions finally arrived at the destination. Therefore, the real lion dance was only limited to the imperial palace and wealthy families, and common people never had the chance to watch it. Therefore, the folk artists created idealized works of lions through imagination according to records or legends.
Lion Dance has two types. South Lion and North Lion. The North Lion type is popular in north China, while the South type is popular in south China, especially in Guangdong Province.
Dragon dance has its nicknames such as "Run with Dragon Lantern in Hands" or "Dance with Dragon Lantern in Hands.” It is one of the activities with the national characteristics of China.
Of all the performers, the ball-holder, the head-holder and the tail-holder are the most important. The ball-holder equals to a commander, and he must care for the movements of the whole dragon lantern. The head-holder is the core of the lantern, and his movements will influence the coordination of the whole dragon. The tail-holder often has to perform movements such as rolls, prances and so on, but he could not see the movements of others so he can only rely on the regular training and act according to certain pattern.
Dragon dance existed in the period of Ming and Qing dynasties. It is usually performed in the traditional days such as the Spring Festival and the Mid-autumn Festival accompanied by other games such as firework, monkey performance, tightrope walking and circus etc.