Human Dragon Dance | Foshan ICH · Charming Lingnan
Foshan China 2023-01-24 15:24

As one of the important origins of Lingnan culture, Foshan has many cultural symbols. The intangible cultural heritages in Foshan like the famous Cantonese opera, paper cutting, wood engraving pictures, Canton embroidery still shine brightly with the preservation of generations of inheritors after so many years.

From this January, Foshan News Network will present a new series of Foshan ICH • Charming Lingnan. Foshan national intangible cultural heritages will be introduced to people all over the world through pictures and English descriptions, displaying the charm of traditional Foshan culture.

Dragon dance is Chinese traditional culture. There are various kinds of dragon dance activities nationwide. In Guanghua Village, Xintan Town, Shunde District, Foshan, there is a kind of human dragon dance which combines dance with martial arts.

Human dragon dance performance (Photo from Xintan Cultural Center in Shunde District)

The “human dragon” is made up of several people. Teenagers jump onto the shoulders of middle-aged people and a dragon consisting of head, horn, mouth, body, bottom and tail is formed.

Human dragon dance performance (Photo from Xintan Cultural Center in Shunde District)

Human dragon dance has emerged in Guanghua Village in the middle of the Qing Dynasty. Tradition has it that in 1871, a native from the village became the number one scholar in the imperial examination and the martial arts masters in the village launched a 180-people dragon dance performance to celebrate the success of the scholar.

Since then, whenever there is a festival in Guanghua Village, there will be a human dragon dance performance. In 2008, human dragon dance was listed as the second batch of national intangible cultural heritage.

Human dragon dancing (Photo from Xintan Cultural Center in Shunde District)

The human dragon is made up of ten to over one hundred people. With a length of tens of meters, the dragon has two main parts: the dragon bearer or the bottom of the dragon and the dragon body. Those who serve as the dragon bottom must be physically strong and able to support the dragon's body with their shoulders and waists. Those who serve as the dragon body sit on the shoulder of the former dragon bearer and lay back on the shoulder of the latter dragon bearer, their hands waving red ribbons as dragon claws. The dragon head and dragon tail are both played by three people. The performers sit on the shoulder of the dragon bearer and hold the dragon horn or dragon tail props in hand. There is one person riding the waist of the dragon bearer and his upper body hangs forward to act as the dragon tongue. With a strong and powerful waist, the performers’ footwork is solid and steady, enabling the dragon body and the dragon bottom to move in tacit harmony.

Divided into 10 parts as the team ready to go, the emerging dragon, the human dragon dancing, jumping out of the dragon gate, turning over the river and chasing the waves, the flying human dragon, two dragons going out to sea, the coiled dragon holding its head high, knocking on the door into the cave, and winning dragon returning to the sea, the human dragon dance takes 10 to 13 minutes. The person who plays dragon ball is the general director of human dragon dance. He will lead the whole performance of the dance. The performers are dressed in uniform, with the dragon body wearing golden red dragon suits with scales on it, and the dragon bottom wearing yellow martial arts suits, martial arts shoes and hero scarves.

Based on the southern martial arts, the human dragon dance incorporates Wing Chun monkey king stick performance. The formation of the dragon dance varies with beautiful composition and impressive movement. Unlike the dragon props, the human dragon, integrating dance with martial arts, human spirit and dragon vitality, shows the power and beauty of the human body.

Author | May

Revisor | Eleanor