Chinese lions may not look much like actual lions from Africa, but they share many characteristics with mythical lions found in folklore traditions around the world. According to Chinese belief, lions chase away evil spirits and bring good luck, most likely because of their size, strength and fierce nature. Very colorful and stylized, Chinese lions exemplify the traditional style of Chinese art. However, Chinese lion dance costumes are only a small part of the artform. The costume, dancers, choreography, and music all work together to create a beautiful and successful performance. This lion dance sculpture represents the tradition of southern China. A very challenging and physical dance, the dance requires its dancers to be very fit, strong, flexible and to have a good sense of balance. Lion dancers are usually specialists in Kung Fu. The two dancers choreograph their steps together in time with rhythmic music created by drum, gong and cymbal players. They perform amazing moves by jumping high, standing on top of one another, and operating the lion's movable jaw and eyes! Lion dances are performed for a variety of occasions, including marriages, the opening of new businesses or restaurants, shrine festivals, and the Chinese Lunar New Year. If performed well, it is believed that a lion dance chases away evil spirits, wards off illness and disease, and brings good fortune. How do you think the lion became such an important animal in Chinese art and lore when lions did not even live in Asia? Because, even long ago, people from different parts of the world shared ideas and art, influencing one another's culture and beliefs. It is believed that the image of lions entered many Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and China, in the form of art and sculpture imported from other parts of the world. Art historians have traced the earliest images of lions in Asian art to China's Han Dynasty (about 208 BC to 221 AD).
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
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China -- History -- Han dynasty, 202 B.C.-220 A.D.
Lions in art
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