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The Chinese Dragons

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The dragon dance forms part of the tradition of the Chinese New Year, the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It indicates the beginning of the Spring Festival, which lasts fifteen days and ends with the Lanterns Festival. This folkloric dragon dance, which means  « run or dance with the dragon-lantern in hands », dates back to the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644).

The dragon is made up with fine bamboo strips, silk and paper lanterns. It consists of three parts: the head, the body and the tail. The body is divided into multiple sections but made up into an odd number of sub-parts.

Martial arts professionals generally perform this dance, as it requires endurance, strength, flexibility and dexterity. It can be performed during the day as well as at night. If it takes place at night, then lanterns are lighted up inside each part of the dragon.

Someone holds a kind of balloon at the end of a handle and runs in front of the head of the dragon, which follows him. The one person handling the balloon and those who hold the head and the tail of the dragon perform the most important roles among the dancers. The balloon holder is somehow the conductor. He is the one who provokes and controls the movements of the dragon.

The head holder personifies the soul and the motion of the dragon. He follows the movement of the balloon and guides the fluidness of the quiver, which is passed, to the other parts of the body of the dragon. The holder of the tail cannot see the movements of the other dancers. He performs complicated figures, which requires regular practice. Drums, cymbals, gongs and traditional music accompany this fluid dance.


Combined with firecrackers and fireworks, the dragon dance is an indispensable component of the celebrations of the Chinese New Year.