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A lion dance dream never stops

Updated:2021-08-30 17:45:14   Yunnan Tourism and Culture Times

Editor's note: 

Under the jurisdiction of Kunming City, capital of Yunnan province, the Guangwei Village has a long history in performing the lion dance and the dragon’s play, and making the traditional costumes. As a local inheritor of costume-making skills in the lion and dragon dances, Bi Fuhua is determined to pass the tradition onto the next generation. 

Bi Fuhua(L) instructs a student in the lion dance. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen)


A lion dance dream never stops

In the sound of gongs and drums, the “lion” jumped, leaped, groomed and shook its head, presenting an adorkable image to the audience. Anyone who didn’t know about the show might think there must have been men under the lion dance costumes. But when the dance came to an end, it proved that the performers were two female college students.

Though their performance drew constant applause, their master Bi Fuhua was almost breathless with anxiety for that was their first performance. Both of the girls were from Zhaotong College, the taller was Liao Guiju and the shorter Chen Wenyan. Not long ago, they came all the way from their hometowns to learn the dance from Bi.

The day when they arrived at Guangwei Village, they both pulled large suitcases and planned to spend the festival in the village as the Spring Festival is an important occasion for performing lion dance. “It was my first time to spend Spring Festival outside my hometown. But I was happy with a lion dance Spring Festival,” said Chen Wenyan. She said when she was dressed in lion dance costumes, she would perform with all her soul and mind and try her best to mimick the real moves of lions.


Chen Wenyan (R) learns the lion dance from Bi. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen) 

Before the Spring Festival each year, Bi and his apprentices will be readying themselves for the performances. “We have commercial performances, even on the day of Spring Festival eve,” said Bi.

Under the instruction of Bi, Chen Wenyan had mastered the basic skills of lion dance. In performances, she is in charge of holding the lion heads, which requires stronger upper limbs of the dancers. “Each day, my neck and arms ache. But no pains, no gains.” She said that dragon dance had become her favorite hobby.

Collaboration is required in performing every movement. Chen’s partner is Liao Guiju whose job is holding the body of the lion. In the practice, there were times when Liao couldn’t follow the steps of Chen. Sometimes, Chen jumped, but Liao still squatted, and the lion lost its tail. “Perfect collaboration grows out of long-term practice. Or else we make mistakes, or even get injured, ” Chen said. 

As a master who has dedicated more than 20 years to the dragon dance, Bi has taught many students from around Kunming. To his delight, more and more young men showed their interest in the dance as the country has attached greater importance to intangible cultural heritage protection.


Bi Fuhua(L) instructs his students in the dragon's play. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen)

 “Lion dance has been a Chinese tradition for hundreds of years. We need to pass it on,” Bi said frankly. But when he first joined the lion dance team in 2001, the dance was just one of the types of amusement at festivals.

His understanding about the dance got deeper until he encountered a dragon dance team with all its members being over 70-year-old grannies.“Even though they were elders, their passion for the dance never faded, which touched the bottom of my heart greatly, ” he recalled. Since then, he has been determined to pass on the heritage.

Though it costed him time and money, he never lost his dream. In 2015, Bi was listed as the lion-dance costume making inheritor at the Gandu District level. Now, he also teaches the lion dance in primary and middle schools. “The dance has been performed not only by elders, but also by young people,” he said.

Besides daily training, Bi visits schools each week. “Now I have post-1990, 2000 and 2010 students. Their participation will create enabling conditions for passing on the tradition,” he said. 


Bi Fuhua(L) talks with his apprentices. (Xinhua/Wang Guansen) 

Writing by Yan Yong, Wangan Haowei and Wang Guansen; Trans-editing by Zu Hongbing

Keywords:   lion dance dream