Dragon's dance

In the Chinese Pantheon, among mythological animals, immortal sages and soul deities, the Dragon is the most sacred animal and was the emblem of the Emperor, divine emanation and symbol of strength and benevolence; his the legend was born 5000 years ago, together with the culture of the Chinese people.

The Dragon’s Dance was already very popular in the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 BC) and has been kept alive until today. The Dragon’s mask and body can be of various colors: gold, green, flaming red or of different colors.

The Dance can be performed both during the day and at night and the procession of dancers who perform it is compared to the wave of the sea, a faithful and natural representation of a celestial Dragon.

Represented on the occasion of the new year, as it was in ancient China, this animal was considered benevolent and providential, a symbol of long life, luck and bringer of rains, vital for future lands and crops.

It is no coincidence that for this propitiatory ability he is linked to the world of Kung Fu, also because its movements are difficult and require considerable physical preparation.

The Dragon is carried by 9 athletes and is about 20 meters long, even if much longer dragons are built on special occasions, carried by 20 or more people.

During its performance, the animal follows a leader who dances at the head of the procession, carrying a lantern or a pearl (representing the Moon, wisdom, luck) on top of a stick, with which it guides the movements of the Dragon and manages the rhythms together with the band of drums, cymbals, gongs. The choreography is often enriched by the Lion’s dance and is composed not only of the rhythm of the drum but also of pyrotechnic elements and colored smoke.

Mythological stories are lost in the mists of time, but it was during the Wei and Jin Dynasties (220-420 AD) that writers, influenced by the ideas of alchemists and Taoist and Buddhist superstitions, ventured into narrating stories about gods and ghosts. In the later period, under the Northern and Southern Dynasties and later in the Tang Dynasty, many well-known storytellers and poets ventured into writing actual stories that reflected various aspects of human nature and daily life.

These stories, in their structure, are not short notes or anecdotes like the fairy tales produced in previous eras, but well-structured stories with distinct and intense characters, interesting plots, divinities, ghosts, animal spirits and their incarnations, wise spirits, mythological monsters.

The mythological literary works typical of the Song Dynasty influence the narrative of the Tang era, even if they never reach those levels. One of the novels in the field of fiction, which deserves to be mentioned, is the Taiping Guangji collection dating from 976-983 AD, a collection of about 7,000 stories, selected from about 300 books, many of which have been lost and published earlier and during the Song Dynasty years. Most of these 7,000 stories are about male and female deities, fairies and ghosts. In the Song era they are known as “notebooks for storytellers”.

During the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, which continued the now well-known art of narrative, there were short stories in dialect such as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Margins of Water, Pilgrimage to the West, The Scholars and The Dream of the Red Palace.

In the early periods of the Qing Dynasty, an anthology of mythological stories written in the classical style by Pu Songling appears, which was a popular, celebrated and appreciated book for a long time.

After Pu Songling, Ji Yun, who excels in the Siku Quanshu collection, wrote a book that collects anecdotes, stories and fairy tales about forest gods, foxes and ghosts.

In Chinese culture the Dragon is the most sacred animal, considered friendly and providential, a symbol of long life, luck and bringer of rain and taken as the emblem of the Emperor; symbol of strength and benevolence. The Dragon’s Dance is a still alive and very popular tradition, established in Chinese folklore during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 BC).

The mask and the body of the Dragon can be of various colors: gold, green, flaming red or of different colors, even the length is variable (in fact there are Dragons carried by 20 or more people). The Dance is performed both during the day and at night (Loung Ye is the phosphorescent dragon used at night) and the procession of dancers who perform it is compared to the wave of the sea, a faithful and natural representation of a celestial dragon.


The dragon performances are performed in occasion of the new year, as a propitiatory rite. His dance is guided by the pearl (which represents the Moon, the wisdom, the energy of the universe), carried by an athlete on a long stick, with which he guides the dance and gives direction to the dragon, which performs swirls, waves, joints and often complicated overlaps that require constant training in order to reach the sphere to devour it.

A musical background of Drums, cymbals and gongs playing arhythmically, follow the movements of the Dragon.

Many Kung-Fu schools combine their training course with the study of Dragon dance which is represented during festivals, demonstrations and events related to Chinese culture. A group of athletes is formed to carry the Dragon, guided by the leader who, through complicated movements, will animate this fantastic creature in its attempt to reach the Moon.

The Dance of the Dragon is difficult and requires harmony, collaboration and training.

In fact, the swaying movements of his body, controlled through sticks on the top of which there is a bow fixed under the cloak that represents the animal’s body, require a considerable dose of physical and technical coordination also in the use of the stick so that the Dragon in its movements seem like a single body.

This martial dance also needs constant commitment, because it requires great synchronicity and teamwork during the execution of the techniques and movements.

Pulao is always depicted on bells and gongs;

Qiuniu, loves music of all genres;

Bixi (literature enthusiast) is represented at the top of the steles and on the shelves, while Baxia at the base of the same, as it is capable of withstanding great weights.

Sometimes there are sculptures of turtles carrying heavy commemorative steles on their backs, the features of the Baxia dragon are given to the heads;

Chaofeng appears at the carved ends of the beams of the times for his inclination to danger;

Chiwen decorates the balustrades of bridges, having a marked passion for water;

Suanmi is carved on the throne of Buddha for his propensity for rest;

Yazi is depicted on the hilt of swords;

Finally, Bi’an extends over the architrave and the prison doors.

Far from being a disturbing and apocalyptic creature, the dragon in China has always aroused everyone’s sympathy and, at the time of the Manchu dynasty, everyone was thrilled to be admitted to the order of the Double Dragon, and wear a medal on their chest where two beneficial creatures were depicted. The dragon, being auspicious, could only bring happiness, wealth and prosperity. We therefore understand the enormous and lasting success of this theme which has been kept alive for more than thirty centuries. Many Chinese continue to baptize their children with the name “Long”, dragon, and candidates who have successfully passed examinations and competitions, as well as academics are in turn conferred the title of “dragon”.