Chinese New Year 2019: Entertaiment
Dragon dance, also known as dragon lantern dance, is an important part of unique Chinese folklore celebrations. From the Spring Festival to the Lantern Festival, dragon dance shows could be seen everywhere in towns and cities.
Dragon dance is closely associated with the tradition that Chinese worship dragon, which is considered the top one of four spirits. The other three include Phoenix, Kylin, and tortoise.
Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly controlling over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength and good luck.
Thousands of years, the dragon has been the totem of Chinese people who regard themselves as the descendants of dragons.
The dragon dance derives from Chinese traditional dance.
In the past, when natural disasters and accidents occurred, people would pray to gods to bless them by dancing a dragon puppet.
And with time passing by, the dance evolved from the original prayer into a rhythmic, jolly and vigorous dance performance. Dragon dance is beloved so much that no other entertainment could be the highlight of Spring celebrations. Dragon dancing makes people happier also because it is so easy to participate. Everyone including the old and children can learn it well if they wish.
There goes a folk saying, “Children of seven or eight play with grass dragon, teenagers love smaller dragon, while young men favor the big one”.
Dragon puppet is hand-made. The head and body are stapled with bamboo skin and wood piece, the surface will be plastered with tissue paper or cloth. Paint different colors for every part. The body needs to be painted golden-scale pattern. Finally the most respectable senior will draw the eyes for the dragon with a brush, bringing the dragon to life with his finishing touch. Some even put candles or oil lamps inside the dragon puppet and the play is spectacular and more exciting with an illuminating movement.
The body can be divided into several sections. Chinese prefer odd numbers, so the puppet is usually composed of nine, eleven and thirteen sectionS, at most twenty-nine sections, which is rarely seen sometimes. Dragon models of more than fifteen sections istoo heavy to play with but more suitable to patrol and watch. They seem to have more value in artistic appreciation than performance as their makers pay more attention to decoration and painting.
With each section of the body is connected by cloth to another, the dragon for dance has bamboo sticks attached to its head, body, and tail below and every dancer takes hold of one stick. When the performance begins, a man holding a long pole with a dragon ball on top will stand in front of the dragon head. He will swing the dragon ball from left to right in musical tune and the dragon will move forward to get it.
The audience may feel bewildered and dazzled when they seem to see a dragon soaring to the sky this moment and diving into the deep sea next second. Sometimes two or three dragons fight for one ball, which is called “Er Long Xi Zhu” and “San Long Xi Zhu” in Chinese.
The dance style in the north is different from that in the south bordered by the Yangtze River. The northern dragon is lighter and smaller in the head, and thinner and more delicate in body and tail, which enables more people to participate in the dance whether they are old or young, men or women. Lightness and small size also leave more room for the performers to improve their moving skills and patterns.
In comparison, the southern dragon is characterized by its presence and appearance due to its heavy body and large size. Most of the dancers are men. With a heavy load, they just act relatively simple and they are more proud of the dragon’s volume. The body is usually twenty meters long and some are even as long as hundreds of meters. More decoration and brighter color paintings feature the appearance of the southern dragon.
In Zhejiang Province and Fujian Province, the custom of bench dragon dance has been practiced till today.
People only make the head and tail for dragon model. The body is made up of the benches from the folks and each house is expected to offer one bench. When the dance commences, the representative chosen by each family will lift his bench high under the leading of the head man and patrol in the street around near villages. Bench against bench, it is indeed extraordinary. The dragon moves in circles or an S pattern or the head over the body.
There are still other special categories in the south such as dragon dancing on stilts in Mianyang, Xiantao City of Hubei Province, Qiang Minority’s hemp-fiber dragon in Jizhou of Sichuan Province, Suzhuang’s straw dragon in Kaihua of Zhejiang province, incense-sparkling dragon in Rucheng of Hunan Province and Tujia Minority’s water- splashing dragon in the west part of Hunan Province. The leave-flower dragon in Changxing of Zhejiang and fireworks dragon in Guangdong are distinguished too.
The Chinese view the lion as a potent animal that has magic power to drive out evil spirits.
The lion could be seen anywhere in Chinese culture, not only in the design of the roof, the stone railing, gate pier, but also inscribed in the seals and on the paintings. They imitate the dance of lion to express their adoration.
The lion dance, or lion lantern or lion dancing as it is called, has a long history People entertain themselves by dancing the lion models to express their hopes of luck and auspicious omen and warding off evil spirits.
The dance was very popular in the Southern and Northern Period. And there were already 100 participants in the collective performance in the Tang Dynasty. In court, the lion dance was admired by the nobility too and was called by its noble name Tai Ping Lion Dance or Wu Fang Lion Dance.
The dance of lion could be divided into northern style and southern style in terms of dancing steps and the lion’s appearance.
The northern lions resemble their real equivalents. They are covered with golden wool with eyes staring big and mouth wide open. Two dancers will wear the shoes and trousers made of lion-hair-like fibers. One is holding the head in front and the other is in charge of the rear behind.
They work together to get it to move as the real lion walks in the forest. Male lions with green stripes dance with female lions with red stripes. And they leap, swoop, roll over to attack and play. A man with a ball made of strips of silk will tease at the two lions to fight for it. And sometimes, a pair of child lions will join the Show and play with their bigger fellows.
The southern one is called awakening lion with aggressive and violent appearance design. Two dancers are needed too. The head is designed based on the face of Chinese opera, striking color and well-made. The eyelids can bat frequently and the mouth can open to devour vividly.
There are three kinds of the southern lions on the basis of three characters in Three Kingdom Period. Liu Bei. emperor of Han, led Guan Yu and Zhang Fei to fight for their empire.
The dancers should follow different steps in the show to represent different characters. Guan Yu’s actor will dance the red lion and move in a steady and powerful way to show his loyalty and his calmness. And yellow color is reserved for the kings and emperors which is prohibited in the commons, so Liu Bei will have the yellow lion in a royal and majestic manner. The black lion by Zhang Fel actually seldom appears in the festivals for its brutality and black fury. However, it features determination and aggression in tournaments and competitions.
打麻将[dǎ má jiāng]
When all the outdoors shows are enough, people begin to seek more pleasure at home. And one of the national favorite activities is Mahjong.
Mahjong is a game that originated in China, commonly played by four players. They arrange tile cards by drawing and discarding. The person who first forms certain groups of tile cards can win the game according to the rules. Mahjong is popular in China home and abroad. It is widespread as the most influential competition game.
In legend, a man called Wan Bingtiao (Character suits, Circle suits, Bamboo suits) invented mahjong.
He admired 108 heroes in Water Margin so much that he decided to make a set of playing equipment for remembrance. After many years’ meditation, he ended up in the creation of mahjong, with which people can play for fun and pay their respect to these heroes at the same time.
He set 108 cards, each of which alluded to a Chinese Robin Hood in Water Margin. Take these for examples, bamboo 2 stands for Huyan Zhuo who is noted for his two iron chains while bamboo 9 refers to Shi Jin who has dragon tattooed onto his back. Besides these simple tiles, Mr. Wan also made five winds tiles North, South, West, East, and Central to represent that the heroes are from every part of China. Another two tiles “bai” and “fa” were added finally to tell that some heroes are rich enough while some poor-stricken.
At last, the number of tiles amounted to 136. Song Jiang, the leader of these heroes, pursued to make a compromise with the government all the time and at last was enlisted into the army of the government. So, the winners or losers cannot utter victory or lose at the last moment. They are expected to say “hu” that means Song Jiang’s determination to make peace with the government.
First, the folks who are oppressed by the government play with the game as a pastime after one day’s heavy work out of their jealousy of the heroes who can eat and drink freely. Later, the entertainment function of mahjong prevailed over other roles and the game became known and accepted by the court.
Generally speaking, most of the previous mahjong tiles are made of bamboo and bones. And there are some Chinese characters like “wan”, “bing” and “tiao” inscribed into the surface. In comparison with other card games, mahjong is more amusing, intellectual and challenging. It is easy to learn and it is lifetime to master in terms of numerous rearrangements and combinations.
Mahjong is special on the basis of Chinese culture. We can find out Chinese philosophical thought in it and unique oriental characteristics of ancient Chinese mathematical theory. Indeed, mahjong is an important part of Chinese traditional culture.
Due to mahjong game play’s variations, different people in different areas set down different rules and thus mahjong is tinged with local color. And ancient Luoshu Mahjong, Sichuan Mahjong, Guangdong Mahjong, and Changsha Mahjong are some representative versions.