Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Link Between Wushu and Lion Dance as Part of Chinese Traditions

In today’s world, we often see lion dances not only in mainland China but also in countries and societies where Chinese people crowd. In Asia, there are the likes of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines where many Chinese and also locals welcome lion dancing in the modern society during festivities and other occasions. Mostly Chinese lion dancing is performed during the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year), opening of a business, weddings, birthday celebrations and festivals. Lion dance performers are invited to these occasions since the lion as a myth is believed to bring hope for prosperity, good luck and wisdom.

With regard to long-lived traditions, lion dancing is an important and rather a huge part of Chinese martial arts. In the older days, this form of art is a manner of testing how skilled a wushu school is. Why? This is where the link between “wushu” and “lion dances” enters the picture. 

Wushu and Lion Dance as Part of Chinese Traditions

In the light of Chinese culture and tradition, lion dancing is a way to proliferate the teaching of martial arts to various members of ethnic communities. This art is utilized to spread the true essence of martial arts concerning spiritual, mental and physical elements.

It is said that a background in wushu is a pre-requisite in order for one to gracefully imitate the movements of the lion. There is an old saying that goes “If your lion dance performance is good, your wushu skill should be equally good or even better.” So before practicing lion dance, one must first know wushu and have it as kung fu (skill) for performers to gain strength and flexibility. So it’s no wonder why there are many schools and federations now which are composed with members who are both proficient in wushu and lion dance.

Wushu and Lion Dance for Entertainment

Lion dances are formed from wushu stances and movements that demonstrate fighting poses and agility. Wushu practitioners do not commonly engage and get themselves to actual fights much like lion dancers. These acts they make are only for show and entertainment. While a lion dance is composed of a lion manned by two people (as the lion head and the lion tail), wushu can be performed individually or as a group.

Notes on Lion Dances

Lion dance competitions are arranged with rivaling groups (schools, organizations and other institutions) to see which one perform best with honor and discipline.

Routines are learned and performed as difficulty increases with skill, including multitude of techniques like dancing on 12 foot poles, drumming and tapping on other percussion instruments for the beat of the dance and use of props in the attempt to make the lion more life-like.

Notes on Wushu

If you watch the movies of Jet Li, Jacky Chan, Donnie Yen, Wu Jing and other actors which play and feature martial arts as sports, then that gives you a picture of what wushu is.

Wushu is a Chinese martial arts that has a history of over two thousand years. Originating from China, this Chinese boxing style is most popularized as “kung fu.” But “kung fu” and “wushu” are not the same or do not mean the same thing. When translated, “kung fu” means “hard work” or “effort,” and “wushu” is the act of martial arts.

There are many techniques in wushu that are used for competitions, self-defense, health and mental discipline. While it’s for stage and entertainment, its focus is on development of the internal energy to be used for combat. Modern forms embrace more acrobatic-based techniques than traditional ones, but both of these movements can be used to boost the visual appeal of lion dance.