During the Chin Dynasty, there was a time of war amid internal problems. After a day in battle the emperor had a vivid dream of a strange beast playing. This beast was larger than a dog but smaller than a horse, and although it looked fierce, its behavior was unseamly for a tiger. Feeling very curious to know what the beast was, the next day the Emperor went to consult his official advisors. The advisors explained to him that the beast he had seen was called a lion.
Later that day, after a glorious day in battle that the Emperor’s armies won, the same dream came to him. The Emperor was deeply disturbed by the recurrence of the dream, so he consulted his senior and most experienced advisors. They explained to the emperor that the lion was a gift from the gods. Since no lions existed in China, the gods gave it to him in order to let the Emperor have everything. This was deemed a good omen indicating that the gods favored the Emperor.
On returning to the palace after winning the battle, celebrations were evident everywhere, but the emperor’s mind was still filled with the dream of the strange beast. The Emperor’s court advisors described to him how to go about constructing the features of this mythical beast using paper, cloth and bamboo. In the Emperor’s next battle, the lion became the symbol of good fortune for his armies. The battle was won, and since then, the result of this good omen is what we now call the lion dance.
Today, we present the Lion Dance at all important festivals and occasions, because the Lion Dance brings happiness, prosperity and good fortune to all the people attending the celebrations.
Symbolic Characteristics of Lions
The lion is a very important symbolic icon for a Kung Fu school as it embodies the spirit and energy of that school. Footwork displayed by the lion is representative and typifies the stance work used in the school’s style. A typical lion dance troupe consists of five to seven people, the minimum being five. Each member of the troupe is usually assigned a special function. Two people will man the lion,consisting of a “head” and a “tail”; a third will be the drummer, another a gong player, with up to three or more symbol players. On some occasions a Dai Tau Fut or big-headed Buddha is also used.