On the afternoon of February 27, 2014, the director and assistant director of the Fordney Foundation attended an event at the Lake Sherwood Country Club where the City of Thousand Oaks established a Sister City with the Shibei District, Qingdao City, in China. Shibei District/Qingdao City is considered to be one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities in China. Qingdao City was named China’s most livable city. Besides that, Shibei District contains many new major commercial and residential developments as well as some of the more established older industries and enterprises of China.
The mission of these two very diverse countrys is to create an environment for promotion and development of effective and mutual beneficial cooperation between the citizens of Thousand Oaks and the Shibei District of China. There will be reciprocal cultural, educational, professional, business and technical exchanges.
The event included Westlake High School who performed a formation team hip-hop routine. Toward the end of the event, a wonderful Chinese Lion Dance was performed by Chinese traditional dancers. That’s where I come in. I would like to share with you what exactly the Chinese Lion Dance is.
Chinese Lion Dance is a traditional dance in Chinese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume. The Lion dance is usually performed during the Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals. It may also be performed at many other important occasions such as business opening events, special celebrations and weddings. You may also see it performed in honor of special guests by the Chinese communities.
Sometimes the Chinese Lion Dance is mistaken for the Dragon Dance of China. But they are very different. The Lion dance is normally operated by two dancers, while a Dragon dance needs many people. In a Lion dance, the performers’ faces are only seen occasionally, since they are inside the lion. In a Dragon dance, the performers’ faces can easily be seen since the dragon is held on poles.
There are mainly two forms of the Chinese Lion Dance, the Northern lion and the Southern lion. Both forms are found in China. The Northern lion has a mane and four legs. It is usually more realistic than the Southern lion, which has a drape and have two to four legs. In the Northern lion, one performer holds the lion’s head with both hands and another crouches at the lion’s tail. The Southern lion’s head shape is more like a dragon’s without horns or a long snout. The Southern lion makes dramatic head thrusts to the sound of drums and gongs; while the Northern lion makes use of its prancing legs in its dance. Other versions of the Lion Dance are also found in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Tibet.
There is an old tradition in China of dancers wearing masks to resemble animals or mythical beasts. The lion is not native to China. The Lion Dance originated outside of China from India or Persia and introduced to Central Asia and China as early as the third century AD. It is traditional that the Chinese Lion Dance costumes used in performances be custom made only in specialty craft shops in rural parts of China. These costumes are unique, vibrant and amazing to look at. As can be expected, the costumes have to be imported by foreign countries at a considerable expense if they desire to have one of these costumes made.
As you watch the Chinese Lion Dance being performed, you may notice that the dance resembles movements found in Chinese martial arts. The Chinese Lion Dance has close relations to Kung Fu and the dancers are usually martial art members of a local King Fu club or school. Some students train hard to master the skill as one of the disciples of the martial art. It is believed that if a school has a capable troupe with many ‘lions’, it demonstrates the success of the school.
Through the years, Chinese Lion Dance has evolved into more acrobatic styles and skills during performances. Competitions are performed on a series of small circular platforms raised on poles. It is judged based on skill, liveliness of the ‘lion’ together with the creativity of the stunts, choreographed moves, difficulty of the acrobatics and the live rhythmic instrumental accompaniment that captivates the spectators and the judge(s) of the competition. International Lion Dance championships are held in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
It is no wonder that the Chinese Lion Dance was performed at this significant event. It is believed to bring good luck and fortune to business affiliations. The Fordney Foundation was proud to attend this gala luncheon representing international peace. And to our unexpected delight, we feel we got an extra treat by seeing and learning about Chinese Lion Dance!
Thought Of The Week:
Chinese Proverb: “As long as one has great achievements, it doesn’t matter if they come slowly or late in one’s life or career.”