Chinese New Year Celebrated with Lion Dance

Giovanni Mendoza, Translator

Chinese New Year is a huge celebration filled with Chinese lanterns, spring couplets, paper cuttings, and firecrackers. Along with the decorations and different activities, a lion dance performance is displayed to remember the legend of the heroic lion that saved the people of China from a ferocious beast. 

Lion dancing originated during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD.) Lydia Lu, who is the Chinese teacher at NLRHS, explains, “Legend has it that an emperor had a dream where a strange beast saved his life.” The strange beast was said to have resembled a lion from the West. 

“Lions became a symbol of good luck and fortune because they had saved their emperor’s life,” says Lu. In Chinese culture, the lion symbolizes strength, stability, and superiority. 

Lu explains that during the rule of “Huang Di” ( “Yellow Emperor”), a fast and fierce monster called the Nien appeared in China and attacked the people and animals. As nothing could stop the Nien, the people asked the lion to help. The lion bravely rushed towards the monster and wounded it, but the Nien swore to return and take revenge. “A year later, the Nien returned,” explains Lu. Without the lion’s protection this time, the people produced a “lion” out of bamboo and cloth,” explains Lu. “Two men crawled inside the lion and approached the Nien. They pranced and roared driving the monster away,” continued Lu.

 From then on, lion dances have become a yearly tradition to frighten evil away and bring luck and happiness during the Chinese New Year.