Chinese Traditional Dance

The Chinese national dance culture has a long history. The track record of images and text cultural relics of the Chinese traditional dance is never extinguished during the past 5,000 years' history. This phenomenon is also rare in the culture history of the world.

About five or six thousand years ago, in the Neolithic age, the Chinese showed the groupment and self-entertainment of the original dance. In order to maintain and continue their life, human must create material wealth and spirit wealth through labor. So, working is the most basic and important social activities of human beings. Deeply rooted in the daily life of human, the dance must reflect the content of labor.

traditional Chinese dance


Prehistoric Chinese dance originated from religion. Shamanist performs various religious ritual involving dances. Dance was merely a religious ritual rather than a form of entertainment art. During Zhou dynasty, there was great development of Chinese dance in the form of rites and large-scale royal religious ceremony. The dance was known as “Yue Wu” accompanied by music performance known as “Ya Yue”. There are two particular schools of dance, known as “Big Dance” and “Small Dance”. During Han dynasty, there were greater developments of dance as forms of entertainment. Professional training and the innovation of new gadgets used for dance were created. The Tang dynasty saw another peak development in Chinese dance. Tang dynasty dance was built on the foundation of the Han dynasty’s “Hundred performance” and a blend between foreign and Chinese culture during Age of fragmentation. After Song dynasty, Chinese folks dance began to rise up as the more popular dance. Various ancient dances began to disappear. The development of opera-dance as a form of entertainment during Yuan dynasty began to take toot. By Ming and Qing dynasty, opera dance became a mature form of entertainment art. By ROC and PRC period, musicals dance became a popular form of entertainment performance.

The group characteristics of Chinese traditional dance mainly express in three aspects: the creation, the performance, and the spread. Chinese traditional dance come from the folk. Added gradually with the rapid movement, the harmony step and the unified rhythm, the Chinese traditional dance expresses the folks` need of emotion release in the way of pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy.

Some different forms of Chinese traditional dance as follow:

Lion/Dragon Dance

The lion dance is one of the most distinctive Chinese cultural arts. It is often mistakenly referred to as dragon dance. An easy way to tell the difference is that a lion is operated by two people, while a dragon needs many people. Also, in a lion dance, the performers` faces are covered, since they are inside the lion. In a dragon dance, the performers can be seen since the dragon is held upon poles.

Basic lion dance fundamental movements can be found in most Chinese martial arts. It brings good fortune. The lion dance is usually performed by group of two or three people. One is at the head and one is at the tail of the lion. The third person usually wears a mask and acts as the “Happy Buddha”.

Lion dances can be categorized into two styles, Chinese Northern and Chinese Southern.

In northern dance, the lion is usually red, orange and yellow, shaggy in appearance with big golden head; The Chinese Northern dance was used as entertainment for the imperial court and elsewhere with dangerous stunts.

The Chinese Southern dance is more symbolic which usually performed as a ceremony to scare away evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The southern lion exhibits a wide variety of color and has a distinctive head with large eyes, a mirror on the forehead, and a single horn at center of the head. Lion dance costumes are considered to be spiritually protective when used as they are traditionally blessed before usage.

Chinese dragon dance


Traditional Chinese Ribbon Dance

The traditional Chinese ribbon dance is a classical Chinese dance dated back to the Tang dynasty in the early eighth century. It has been attributed to Emperor Tang-Ming-Hwon and his consort Yang-Gwei- Fei for their musical and dancing talent respectively. The Chinese legend has it that Emperor Tang- Ming-Hwon once dreamed that he was in the moon palace with many fairies singing and dancing in multicolored cloud-like long robes. The dance with the flowing silk ribbons and accompanied by Chinese instruments- Erhu and Pipa is characterized by its refreshing and poetic mood.

Yangko Dance

The Yangko dance is a traditional Chinese folk dance. The dance is smooth and compact in rhythm, featuring its jolly scene, abundant dance language, exuberant gestures, and vivid performing style. The Yangko dance was created by the farmers when they worked in the rice field in the Song Dynasty, and is used to worship god of farming to pray for harvest in ancient times. Year after year, the Yangko dance constantly absorbed techniques and forms from farming songs, folk songs, folk Kungfu, acrobatics and dramas. Because of the differences of regions and customs, some variations exist in the Yangko dances. There are three types of performance in Chinese Yangko dance: the song-and-dance duets, Yangko performed on the ground and Yangko preformed on the stilts.


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