Local News

What is lion dance, why is it a part of New Year?

What is lion dance, why is it a part of New Year?

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Lunar New Year is a big deal in Hawaii. With the influx of Chinese immigrants to the islands a hundred years ago came a deeply traditional life.

One of those traditions is the lion dance. But where did this tradition come from? China never had lions. And, how did the dance become synonymous with the Lunar New Year?

Sign up to get the latest Hawaii morning news delivered to your inbox news 2 u

To find this answer, you have to distill a lot of information scattered across the internet.

Through the many historical claims, it seems that there are a few myths that track each other over and over again – the legends of the Silk Road.

What was the silk road?

The Silk Road was a trade route that linked West Asia with East Asia and Central Asia in between. This trade route built the ancient world and secured many state powers.

Most historians agree that the Silk Road was built around 138 BC to connect the two major emerging world powers, Rome and China.

It was along this trade route that historians attribute the emergence of martial arts. It has been proposed that martial arts, specifically kung fu, were created along the way as a means of self-defense.

This route is also responsible for the convergence of culture. Traditionally the lion dancers of Persia are said to have brought their stories and beliefs to China in this way. even during the han dynasty [circa 205 B.C.E. to 220 C.E.]Lions were given as gifts from the west for the silk trade.

READ ALSO :   EPA recommends closing San Juan Elementary School due to toxic exposure

Lions are associated with wealth and prosperity.

Buddhist connection.

The Buddhist tradition of using lions as symbols of good luck came from these trade relations. Buddhism originated in India, where lions were present.

Legend has it that a temple was infested with rats. The Buddhist monk brought a lion to eat all the rats, but the lion then attacked the villagers and started eating them too. The monks had to tame the lion. He did this by introducing it to Buddhism and helping the lions integrate into the village culture.

So the lion calmed down, recognized the value of life and became a protector. Buddhist historians explain the use of lion symbolism in their religion as follows.

It is a fascinating legend. There is considerable speculation as to what actually happened and how this symbolism came about as a means of communicating this story. Were they Persians brought in to deal with the consumerism that has taken over a village and threatened their peaceful existence? One has to wonder…

Enter the Tang Dynasty.

Tang Dynasty [circa 716-907 C.E.] Did most to establish the lions in Chinese mythology.

Legend has it that an emperor dreamed about a creature that saved his life. When he described the creature to his ministers, they were immediately convinced that the emperor was describing an animal from the West known as a lion.

Thereafter, Leo became associated with security and wealth; And the lion dance was promoted in various festivals and celebrations as a means of spreading good luck and fortune.

The Jade Emperor and Goddess of Mercy, Quan Yin.

READ ALSO :   Shoppers this holiday season are getting creative with gifts this year

Another legend centers on the Jade Emperor and Quan Yin. For context, the Jade Emperor is one of China’s most revered deities. He is considered the first emperor of China and is an example of fairness, benevolence and kindness. He is said to preside over the transition to the new year, judge the actions of the previous year and according to his judgment, punish or distribute rewards in the new year.

The lion in this story was a mischievous heavenly creature who played practical jokes. Unfortunately the lion chose the wrong person.

The Jade Emperor became enraged that he had been targeted by the lion for a practical joke, so he decapitated the lion.

When Quan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, saw this, she sympathized with the lion. He used a long ribbon and attached them to form a body for the lion’s head.

This brought life to the lion’s life. He is also quoted as having offered his horn to a lion to protect himself from future danger. He is also credited with giving his mirror to the lion so that he can ward off evil.

Get the news on the go with KHON 2Go, KHON’s Morning Podcast, every morning at 8am

So, that’s it in a nutshell. Lion dances in the East are approximately 1,500 to 2,000 years old. It was an imported tradition from West Asia that was able to retain its importance over the years as a cultural tradition, passing luck and good fortune down one generation after the next.

READ ALSO :   Exclusive - GE lays off workers at onshore wind unit as part of turnaround strategy - sources

The Latest

To Top