The Lion Dance

The traditional lion dance seen at Chinese New Year originates from the legend of the monster known as Nian. You can read all about the legend in our illustrated Story of Nian.

Street celebrations often include a performance of the lion dance which is thought to bring good luck. There are usually two dancers. One acts as the head and the other the body. They dance to a drum, cymbals and a gong. On the head of the lion is mirror so that evil spirits will be frightened away by their own reflections. As the lion runs along the streets he begins to visit different places. On his way he meets another person, the ‘Laughing Buddha’ who is dressed in monk’s robes and a mask. He teases the lion with a fan made of banana-leaves which makes the lion jump around.

Laughing Buddha Teases the Lion

The lion dancers need to be very fit. As the lion moves from place to place he looks for some green vegetables such as lettuce which are hung above the doors of houses or businesses. Hidden in the leaves is a red packet of money. The lion eats the lettuce and red packet. He then scatters lettuce leaves to symbolize a fresh start for the new year and the spreading of good luck.

Video of the Lion Dance

Find out about Dragon Dance