The origin of Chinese Lion Dance

There are numerous legends about the origin of the lion dance. One of them is described here:

According to the legend the southern lion, also known as "Nian Shou" or animal of the year, originates from an old Chinese legend. That legend tells that the emperor of the Ching dynasty, Chian Long, went for a journey to the province Jiang Nan.

One night he had a strange dream. He dreamt that he stood suddenly all alone opposite of a mystical creature, from whose middle of the head a horn was protuding. This encounter caused a feeling of surprise in him, at the same time it made him fear. The creature, however, only looked at him and then with sparkling eyes disappeared as surprisingly as it had emerged. 

ursprung loeweWhen the emperor woke up the next morning he thought his dream was very amusing and he decided that from that moment onwards this creature was to be considered as king of the animals. Immediately he gathered his servants, artists and craftsmen around him and began to search for a possible meaning of his dream. His subordinates later concluded that this creature could have been a lion, who wanted to let the emperor know that he was of the same rank as the emperor. From that time onwards the emperor called this animal "Ruishi".

After some time had passed the inhabitants of the town of Ling Nan in the province of Kwang Tong created a new lion, who they, however, gave the name"Fushan Shi". In order to fill this newly created lion with life, some representatives of the martial arts experimented with a choreography of dance steps, which were to fulfill that task. Thus, in the course of time a form of dance came into being, which is still called "Lion Dance" today. Actually nothing changed from that kind of dance. However, the name of the lion changed once again, because after the end of the revolution people in China created a new lion in remembrance of the victory, who was given the name "Sheng Li" (lion of victory). That new lion had enough strengh of the body of more than 12 feet (approx. 3,65 m), which, however, gave a strange appearance to that lion.

ursprung loewe 2The actual popularity of the lion and the kind of dance linked with it was generally accepted only in the middle of this century, because some pioneers of the fighting art went through South-East-Asia during that time and had a lion with them, which was only 6 feet (approx. 1,82 m) long and thus gave a more realistic look of a lion. This fact also made it possible that the performances with it now had a more exciting effect. From that time on the lion dance has found its due place in China's tradition and nowadays it is unthinkable to do without it.