Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dragons: Chinese Dragon Dance (2)

Because the dance is a sacred ritual, the colors of the dragon have particular meanings.  The head is green, red, and gold.  The color green represents the harvests; while red is happiness, and gold prosperity.  Meanwhile, the scales of the body and tail are silver.  As the scales shimmer, they bring joy to the dancers and to the onlookers.

Often, the dragon is following a man carrying a ball on a stick.  This is called “seeking wisdom” since the dragon is following the “pearl” of wisdom.  The man with the “pearl” initiates the dragon’s moves for the lead dancer. During Chinese New Year’s, this ball is either red or yellow, representing the sun.  Now the dragon follows the sun to bring spring rains.  In addition, firecrackers are often thrown at the dancers’ feet to keep the dragon awake.

The dragon “puppet” that most people are familiar is the one made of cloth.  However, dragon dances also feature dragons made of bamboo, fire, grass, and paper.  For fire, the fire dragon has candles placed in each section of the body.

The Grass Dragon Dance is often done in the summer time to keep the insects down.  This dragon is constructed from rice straw and green vines.  Then burning incense sticks are placed inside the dragon’s body.  As the people continue with the Dragon Dance, insects are attracted to the burning dragon.  When the dance is finished, the dragon is placed in a pool of water to drown the insects.

Sometimes more dragons are included in the dance.  A double-dragon dance of intertwining dragons is supposed to bring great fortune to everyone.    At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Taoist Tai Chi Society of Canada performed a double dragon dance.  The second dragon they used was smaller, requiring only twenty people.  The two dragons together needed seventy people to perform the dance. 

A full array of nine dragons in a dragon dance is called “Kawlung”, which is considered the best since the Chinese consider nine to be a perfect number. In addition, nine is frequently connected with dragons.  There are nine forms of dragons, nine attributes, and each dragon has nine offspring as well.  Therefore, the Kawlung is the most auspicious of the dragon dances.

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