Category: Folk Dance
Regions: Zhejiang, Guangdong, Chongqing, and Sichuan
Ref. No.: Ⅲ-4
The dragon dance, also known as Wulong, or Shualong, Shualongdeng or Wulongdeng among local people, has become widely popular among various ethnic groups throughout China. With its diversity in forms and varieties, it is unparalleled among any other kind of folk dance in China. Among inscriptions on tortoise shells and bones dating back to as early as the Shang Dynasty, there were texts about men gathering together to worship the dragon and pray for rain; in the Han Dynasty, Dong Zhongshu in his Dews in Spring and Autumn explicitly recorded various kinds of dragon dances as rain prayers; poems and articles in later dynasties are abundant in their descriptions of dragon dances in imperial courts or among the populace. Even today, dragon dances are one of most widespread dance forms for festival folk celebrations. The most basic expressive methods in dragon dances are prop modeling, pattern changes and movement flows. Based on different materials used for making dragon-shaped props, dragons in the dance can be divided into bulong (cloth dragons), shalong (yarn dragons), zhilong (paper dragons), caolong (straw dragons), qianlong (money dragons), zhulong (bamboo dragons), zonglong (palm-fiber dragons), bandenglong (bench dragons), baiyelong (leaf dragons), hehualong (lotus dragons), huolong (fire dragons), jimaolong (chicken-feather dragons), roulong (meat dragons) and so on; dragon costumes in northern China are usually tall and husky and have a simple and powerful style; conversely, in southern China, dragons are exquisitely made, and are characterized by beauty and agility. In terms of color, dragons in the performance are divided into yellow, white, blue, red and black dragon etc., with the yellow dragon being the most honorable. The composition and movement in dragon dances normally features circling, tumbling, twisting, interweaving and leaping. Traditionally, a dragon performance starts from inviting the dragon, dragon approaching, dragon dancing and dragon seeing-off. There is an old folk saying: “playing a straw dragon at seven or eight, a small dragon at fifteen or sixteen and a giant one at sturdy youth”. At the dance, there may be one performer playing two dragons, or as many as one hundred playing a giant one.
A dragon is a Chinese totem and a worshiped ancestor; a dragon dance is considered a spiritual symbol of China, embodying the Chinese solidarity, hardworking spirit and aggressiveness. A cultural manifestation of harmony between man and nature and heavenly blessing, it is the most typical form of entertainment of the Chinese people at auspicious festivals. The folk dance, impassioned, inspired and elevated, is one of China’s rarest cultural heritages.
Dragon Dance -Tongliang longwu
Nominating unit(s): Chongqing City
Tongliang longwu refers to an artistic form of dancing which mainly uses a dragon as the prop and enjoys popularity in Tongliang County, Chongqing. It sprang up in the Ming Dynasty and flourished in the Qing Dynasty; today, it is redisplaying its extraordinary splendor and has become well-known worldwide.
Tongliang longwu includes two major series: a dragon-lantern dance and a colored lantern dance. A dragon-lantern dance mainly includes ten varieties, darulong (a giant wiggling dragon), huolong (a fire dragon), daocaolong (a straw dragon), sunkelong (a bamboo-shoot covered dragon), huangjinglong (a vitex dragon), bandenglong (a bench dragon), zhenglong (an upright dragon), xiaocailong (a little colored dragon), zhubanglong (a bamboo clapper dragon) and hehualong (a lotus dragon), among which the most distinctive is darulong. The colored lantern dance mainly incorporates twelve varieties, including the yuyue longmen (a fish jumping longmen), niqiu chi tangyuan (eel eating rice dumplings), santiao, shiba xueshi (eighteen scholars), liangshi (staging a lion), kaishanhu (a tiger settling down in a mountain), bangkejing (a clamshell fairy), xiniu wangyue (a rhinoceros looking at the moon), zhu keng nan’gua (a pig gnawing on a pumpkin), gaotai longshiwu (a dragon dancing with lions on a high stage), yanta ti’ming (jumping to inscribe), and nangua peng (pumpkin trellis).
Tongliang longwu is characterized by a close link to folk customs, abundant movements and amusing rhythms. The accompaniment is distinctive, props are ingeniously devised, dancing styles are exaggerated, and costumes are simple but naturally posed. There is freedom to join the dance and convenience in withdrawing, thus it enjoys a high participation rate among local people.
The dance reflects the spirit of solidarity, joint-effort, and harmony with heaven, and possesses social functions of entertaining divinity, man and demonstrating prowess. Only a few varieties are well-known, such as darulong and huolong, while most other varieties are now in an endangered state and in urgent need of rescue and conservation.
Dragon Dance • Zhanjiang renlongwu
Nominating unit(s): Zhanjiang City, Guangdong Province
Renlongwu, which remains popular in Dongshanwei Village, Dongshan Town, Donghai Island, Guangdong Province, has long been reputed as “an ingenious skill in the East”. In the performance, dozens or even hundreds of youths and young adults, all dressed in shorts, are physically connected and form a long “dragon”. Along with the thundering gongs, drums and horns, the dragon raises its head high, its body twisting with a swiping tail, as if spectacularly rising from the sea with an irresistible momentum. The dance displays a unique and strong island flavor of the locals and enjoys an unfailing popularity in Donghai Island and the Leizhou Peninsula. It has become an important constituent in large-scale square entertainment. During every festival, such as the Spring Festival, the Lantern Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, or a red-letter day, renlong must be performed for several nights in succession at Dongshanwei Village. Houses along the east and west streets are decorated with lanterns and streamers, and crowded with endless streams of people, creating a truly bustling scene.
According to legends, the dance may have begun at the end of the Ming Dynasty, when defeated troops withdrew to the Leizhou Peninsula and Donghai Island. When the Mid-Autumn Festival arrived, the locals devised and performed the dance to enhance troop morale. Later, it spread far and flourished in the Qianlong and Jiaqing periods. Renlongwu is a result of the unique social and historical factors in specific geographical and natural conditions. It has integrated a number of local customs, such as dragon games, dragon worship, sea sacrifices, and respect to ancestors and gods, developing into a dragon dance performance featuring unique style and "Renlong" spirit. Renlongwu in Zhanjiang follows defined performance procedures, such as qilong (dragon rising), longdiantou (dragon nodding) longchuanyun (dragon going through the clouds) and longjuanlang (dragon rolling waves) etc. Performers have been trained to master steady movements and footwork to prop up others onto their shoulders. The formations are smooth and diversified, and movements are coherent, appearing dynamic at a distance and rough and powerful upon closer viewing. The dance has become an important part for the extension and development of Chinese dragon culture.
As times change, renlongwu has gradually lost its original appeal, and is now in decline. In order to conserve folk cultural heritage, conservation efforts are urgently required.
Dragon Dance •Shanwei gundi Jinlong
Nominating unit(s): Shanwei City, Guangdong Province
According to books collected by Huang Tianshu, an elder from Nanxi Village, Shanwei City and the narration by others familiar with the matter, gundi jinlong originated in the South Song Dynasty (1127-1279); during the Jiajing Period (1507-1567), a branch of the Huang Family, led by a Mr. Huang, whose posthumous name was Guangzhao, moved their residence to Nanxi Village, Lufeng, Guangdong from Zhangzhou, Fujian, and carried with them an edition of The Historical Record of the Performance of Gundi Jinlong. Gundi jinlong of the Huang Family at Nanxi has been passed on for 17 generations. Later, the masters of the art and teachers of traditional martial arts at the village spread it to Shengou Village, Tanxi Town, to the villages of Anbo, Xia’anlian, Dingtan, and Antang at Da’an Town, to the villages of Liangjun and Xiacun at Xi’nan Town, and to other places such as Shangshenshan Village at Chengdong Town, Lufeng.
During the performance, two performers are wrapped into a dragon cover, one playing the dragon head and the other the tail. The whole performance consists of eight parts, namely, kaichang jianli (greeting), dawei xundong (inspecting around the cave), youtan xishui (playing with water), chenjin xilin (stretching and washing scales), fuzhi wenlei (hibernating and listening to thunder), yinglei qiwu (dancing to meet the thunder), jiayun feiteng (soaring over the clouds), and shouchang huanli (ending courtesy). In the dance, the performers imitate movements of a dragon, such as rotating and flying, playing with water, wakening and deliberating, soft twisting and powerful spurting. The performance is accompanied by paizi large gongs and drums, which sound broad and resonant and are often performed at Zhengzi Opera of Hailufeng. The performance also features big suona horns, an instrument capable of playing different tunes for different plots. Frequently-used melodies in the performance include Gong’e yuan, Ku huangtian, Shan poyang and Ba bantou etc. Expressiveness, diversified movement flows, splendid dance postures and superb skills are basic features of the dance.
In 1996, Nanxi Village was honored as “The Home of Ethnic and Folk Arts” by the Department of Culture of Guangdong Province; gundi jinlong has been listed in The Annals of Chinese Dances, and got many awards in national and provincial events.
Dragon Dance • Pujiang bandenglong
Nominating unit(s): Pujiang County, Zhejiang Province
Pujiang County lies in the west part of the central Zhejiang, north of Jinhua City. According to the genealogy of the Zhang clan at Xiazhang Village, Baima Town, Pujiang, it has been a folk tradition in Pujiang to “play dragons and lanterns during the celebration of the Lantern Festival” since the Tang Dynasty, and in the county annals, it is named the “Lantern Festival”. Pujiang bandenglong prevails at villages in Pujiang County, and is widely distributed in coastal regions to the south of the Yangtze River. A survey on the bandenglong dance indicates that it originated in the Tang Dynasty, matured in the Song and Yuan dynasties and flourished in the Ming and Qing dynasties; since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, especially after the reform and opening up, it has been in a stage of inheritance.
In formation, Pujiang bandenglong consists of a dragon head, a dragon body (sub lantern) and a dragon tail, and is commonly known as changdeng (a long lantern). Based on the modeling of the dragon head, it can be divided into yangtianlong (a head-raised dragon), fudilong (a crouching dragon), daxialong (a prawn-like dragon) and other categories. Because of the various modeling forms on the bench boards (the dragon body), there are eleven different styles, such as a square lantern, a wine-jar lantern, and a Chinese-character lantern etc. At a festival or an important ceremony, the dance is performed in its main patterns, including maibingtuan (rolling in the shape of a wheat cake), jiandaogu (tightening) and shuaiweiba (tail swiping).
Pujiang bandenglong, as its Chinese name suggests, is made up with moving dragon lanterns connected to each other by single benches. It highlights all the magnificence, power and grace that a folk square dance can display. In the joyous music played by gongs, horns and blunderbusses, and among rising cheers, spectators can appreciate an ancient custom and a civic belief of worshipping heaven and valuing humanity. Pujiang bandenglong is essentially an artistic complex, integrating such artistic forms as calligraphy, painting, paper-cutting, carved design, sculpture making, paper binding and pasting, and bringing together physical education, acrobatics and dancing. When moving about, the dragon dance has a rough but elegant, unrestrained but orderly style. Through its passionate and philosophical means, the dance achieves a good combination between entertainment and cultivation, and both performers and spectators attain both sensory and spiritual satisfaction. As a form of authentic folk culture, it features a square nature, universality and adventurous feeling, and is unique in terms of the number of participants and venue size.
Pujiang bandenglong has maintained a folk cultural heritage of a dragon belief popular in China, especially in the central Zhejiang and coastal regions to the south of the Yangtze River. It incorporates various folk art patterns, such as paper-cutting and calligraphy, carries forward the artistic forms of public activities and square dances, and possesses great value for research of folk customs and history as well as a vital function for the inheritance of folk arts and crafts. The dance has produced a deep and far-ranging influence in Pujiang, central Zhejiang, and the coastal regions to the south of the Yangtze River. But, the changing times have had an inevitable impact on Pujiang bandenglong. Its inheritance is currently in jeopardy, and it is in urgent need of conservation and rescue.
Dragon Dance •Changxing baiyelong
Nominating unit(s): Changxing County, Zhejiang Province
Changxing baiyelong, originated and spread around Lincheng Town, Changxing County, Zhejiang Province, boasts a history of over 160 years.
Traditionally, baiyelong was mostly performed at temple fairs or festivals. The performance starts from yousimen (moving around four gates) and yuanchang (turning round the playground); when the lotus lanterns are gathered to form a circle and interlinked one after another to make the shape of a dragon, the dancing squad on the outer circle performs with fervor, so as to attract spectators’ attention. The dragon then rises high into the air. As soon as the dragon takes shape, the dancing squads scatter immediately. As the baiyelong is highlighted, the performance reaches its climax.
In terms of performing patterns, baiyelong can be divided into a stage dance, a street-moving dance and a square dance etc. These patterns develop with an increasing complexity in order to fit different occasions. The main formations include changshezhen ( a long snake layout), jielong (connected dragons), caisimen (stepping over four gates), jiandaozhen (a scissor layout), and zousijiao (moving around four corners), and its main movements involve youlong (a wandering dragon), gunlong (a rolling dragon), longpanzhu (a dragon encircling pillars), tenglong (a soaring dragon), wolong (a crouching dragon), shuilong (a sleeping dragon), longchushui (a dragon rising under the water), and longtuxu (a dragon tossing its beards) etc.
The performance is most noticeably characterized with an instantaneously transformation of lotus flowers into a dragon. It is the dance that turned a traditional Chinese dragon parade into a dragon dance. After going through movements and plots, such as an undulated lake, swinging lotus leaves, booming lotuses, fluttering butterflies, lotus changing into a dragon, dragon playing, and the dragon changing into a lotus etc., the performance accomplishes a perfect dance and displays the fabulously poetic imagery of a water village typically found in the south of the Yangtze River.
In 1957, baiyelong won a special award at the 2nd China Joint Performance of Folk Music and Dances, and after having been recommended by former Premier Zhou Enlai, it participated in The 6th World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow and received a gold medal. In 2000, it earned the golden award at the Stars Award Dance Contest.
As a unique folk dance of the Han nationality, baiyelong possesses extremely high artistic value. However, changing times are now affecting the inheritance of the dance, and this rare folk art is in danger of becoming extinct. In order to conserve and inherit the art, the local government of Changxing has taken some precautions and adopted a series of effective measures. As a result of their efforts, a strong atmosphere of conserving local cultural resources and creating featured cultural brands is gradually coming into being.
Dragon Dance • Fenghua bulong
Nominating unit(s): Fenghua City, Zhejiang Province
Fenghua bulong, named after the place where it originated and became popularized, is one of Chinese representative dances with a nationwide influence. It evolved into a folk dance with regional features from a folk ritual consisting of worshiping, inviting and entertaining the gods. So far, it has had a history of over 800 years.
The main artistic features are lively and tactful playing, authentic mannerisms, diversified movement flows and a rapid speed. The entire performance includes some basic flows, such as encircling, rolling, wandering, turning, leaping and playing, and transition movements, such as xiaoyoulong (a little wandering dragon), dayoulong (a giant wandering dragon), and longzuanwei (the dragon playing with the tail) etc.; performers usually execute swift movements, changing postures with adept skills. All the dancing movements must be performed along with the wandering routes of the dragon, and ensure that the “formation changes when the dragon wanders, forms change when the dragon moves, the dragon looks round as performers gather closely together, and performers dance as the dragon soars”. The performance features lively formations, clever transitions, well-knitted links and advances between movements. As the dragon is light and played at a fast pace, the dragon circles are all linked with one another and its body is tightly intertwined. Fenghua bulong has up to 40 traditional movements, a number rarely seen in dragon dances. Some of the movements have become compulsory routines in state dragon dance athletic competitions and transplanted into similar performances in other parts of the country.
In light of the Fenghua bulong’s outstanding cultural value and the fact that the ecological environment for its popularization among folk people is now faced with potential crisis, the local government has already taken steps to conserve it. In 1990, Fenghua bulong was selected into The Collection of Chinese Folk Dances (Zhejiang Volume); in 1996, Fenghua City was named the “Home of Chinese Folk Arts” by the Ministry of Culture; in 2005, Fenghua bulong was listed in the first group of Representitive Works of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Zhejiang Provincial Government.
Dragon Dance • Luzhou yutan cailong
Nominating unit(s): Luxian County, Sichuan Province
Luzhou yutan cailong, owing to its long history and passionate performance, is renowned as the “Eastern Living Dragon”. On the 18th year of Guangxu reign (1898) of the Qing Dynasty, local entertainers in Luzhou transformed the original grass-bundle dragon into a colored dragon, and in 1919, the first yutan cailong was created. Since then, at each festival, wedding or funeral, locals have put on colored dragon performances.
The focus of the performance is on liveliness, and the combination of performers and the dragon. During the performance, performers must “move inside but keep visible, express themselves through their hands, and achieve harmony among their hands, eyes and minds”. Accompanied by percussion music of the Chuan Opera, the dragon interweaves with a “treasure” in a beautiful concert. Performers must vividly act out the typical features and mannerisms of the dragon. The dragon is played in a successive pattern of Tai Ji, which introduces a series enlivened movements; the moods and manners of the dragon are revealed, either by stripping off the cover, turning and rolling, sighing, or itch rubbing. During the process, the performers integrate themselves with the sentiments of the dragon which they are attempting to depict.
Over the long course of the performance, performers have consistently upgraded and enriched the content and developed a full set of movements and typical models, such as longchudong (a dragon crawling out of the cave), longqiangbao (a dragon grabbing a treasure), longtuoyi (a dragon stripping off the cover), longbeijian (a dragon carrying a sword), longtanqi (dragon sighing), longqieta (a dragon laying a pagoda), longbaozhu (a dragon embracing a pillar), huanglonggun (a yellow dragon rolling), daogua jingou (a dragon kicking overhead), taizi qilong (a prince riding a dragon), which demonstrating the imagination of people on dragon to the most extent.
Yutan cailong has a dragon head with a special shape, whose design is mainly derived from the dragon head on the Longtou Bridge, an important heritage site under state protection in Luxian County. The design features a protruding forehead, a short mouth, protruding, moveable eyes, and a lower jaw that opens and closes freely. The entire image forms a majestic, naive, loveably, silly and amiable appearance. The body of the dragon is framed with bamboo splits in joints and parts, and thus has a changeable length. The whole body, made in circles with the splits, is interlinked and becomes highly flexible when put on a dragon cover. The tail differs from that of a commonly-seen dragon as well. In the shape of a snake tail, it wears scales and is full of liveliness.
The Luo Brothers, represented by performers Luo Yinkun, make up the inheritance squad of yutan cailong. The squad has greatly expanded in recent years. New members include not only a team of young pupils, but also people from Chongqing, Tongliang and Chengdu etc.; as a result, yutan cailong enjoys popularity over an expanded geographical area. Still, yutan cailong is faced with the challenges of a new era, and badly in need of conservation and inheritance.
黄廷炎 黄锐胜 谈小明 陈行国 罗德书 费土根 黄焯根 杨书范 郑玉华
Huang Tingyan, Huang Ruisheng, Tan Xiaoming, Chen Xingguo, Luo Deshu, Fei Tugeng, Huang Chaogen, Yang Shufan and Zheng Yuhua.