Lion Dance was recorded as early as the Tang Dynasty, however, it was during the Ching dynasty that the Lion Dance became an important part of Chinese culture.
Legend states that a long time ago, frequent occurrences of plagues and disease were common in China and whenever the plague struck, a heavenly beast would appear. Accompanied by thunder and roars, the beast named Nien, would chase the plague and disease away. The people were amazed at the power of the beast and the good fortune it brought.
Realizing the effect of the beast's presence, the people began making intricate costumes would mimic the heavenly beast. To produce the shattering sounds where needed they built large drums, gongs, and cymbals. Using these props and instruments the people would parade through the streets banging and pounding in order to drive away evil and to bring good fortune and prosperity to them.
The Chinese Lion Dance is divided into two regions, the Northern and Southern. The Northern lion looks much like a Peking dog and therefore many refer to it as the Peking Lion. The body of the Peking Lion is trimmed with orange and gold fur, its steps are light and small with a mix of jumps and acrobatic movements.
The Southern Lion Dance costume consists of a large head constructed of bamboo strips, paper-machet and cloth. The exterior is painted with bright elaborate colors, and decorated with reflective ornaments, pompoms, and fur, The body section is a long cape tied at the neck of the head and is usually made of bright satin complemented with fur, bells and other ornament pieces.
To perform lion dance is to tell a story. The Story is usually of the Lion waken from sleep and leaves its cave in search for Food. Sometimes accompanied by a "Buddha" or Chinese monk who plays the role of comic, acrobatic clown. Dressed in a pink mask with a large smile, he taunts and teases the lion with a fan or a ball.