The Lion Dance

Many believe the Lion Dance originated in the Tang Dynasty in China, however, there are records of masked dances that date back even earlier. The lion itself was not native to China, so the dance is said to have been introduced to China from other countries in Asia.

There are two main styles of the Lion Dance: Northern Lion Dance and Southern Lion Dance. Both of which require a lot of skill, training, and a martial arts background.

The Northern Lion Dance usually consists of a pair of male and female lions. The lions often have a gold-painted head with shaggy red and yellow hair. A red bow on its head usually indicates the male lion and a green bow for the female. This style of dance is usually more playful than the Southern style, and the use of acrobats and stunts are very common.

The Southern Lion Dance, also known as the Cantonese Lion Dance, is the one we see most often here in Vancouver. The lion’s head is traditionally made out of bamboo and papier-mâché. Modern lions may be made of lighter materials, such as aluminum, instead of bamboo. It is then painted and decorated with fur. The body is made of cloth and trimmed with fur. There Southern dance is further broken down into two main styles: Fut San (Buddha Mountain) and Hok San (Crane Mountain), with Fut San being the style that many kung fu schools use.

During the Lunar New Year, many shops will have the lions perform the “choi chiang” (Lucky Lettuce Blessing) ceremony outside their storefronts. The shops would hang lettuce and lucky red envelopes for the lion to pluck. The act of plucking the lettuce and red envelopes symbolizes good fortune through the new year.

The dances are accompanied by music made by playing drums, cymbals, and gongs.

People who are unfamiliar with the Lion Dance often confuse it with the Dragon Dance. While both dances are believed to be auspicious, they are quite different. Where the lion has only two parts (the head and body) and, therefore, requiring only two skilled dancers, the dragon is long and consists of poles to maneuver the head, tail, and sections of the body. A team of dancers must expertly move each part of the dragon in a well-coordinated and properly-timed fashion.

Join us on January 18th at 1PM for the “Mighty 6” Lion Dance and Lucky Lettuce Blessing celebrations.


Pauline Cho                                                                                                                  Pauline’s passion for fashion kicked in as a teenager flipping through fashion mags with her friends. And when she clued in to Cher’s closet in Clueless, there was no stopping her – she and her dream shoe and bag collection had found a home. Here at Oakridge, we trust Pauline to be up on all the interesting restaurants in town, the latest movies in the theatre, and always ready to share her intel. Just don’t think of disturbing her when she’s scrolling IG and Pinterest for the coolest makeup and nail inspo!

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