Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos: Dragons and Lions in the Chinese New Year Parade

THE CHINESE NEW YEAR PARADE: DRAGONS AND LIONS
The most popular event of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival is the Chinese New Year Parade. The actual date is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar and falls in late January or early February. The celebrations last for 15 days, although today, many families celebrate for five. Since the New Year’s festival traditionally marks the beginning of the planting season in China, a major character is a dragon, bringer of rain and good luck.

Dancing Dragon, New York Chinatown, 2003. (Lia Chang)

Dancing Dragon, New York Chinatown, 2003. (Lia Chang)

In China, the dragon is held in high esteem for its dignity and power for good. Today, highlights of Chinese New Year parades include the huge, undulating cloth dragon and prancing lions, which make their way through narrow streets of Chinatowns around the world. They are accompanied by three musicians playing a large drum, cymbals and a gong, who play loudly to chase the evil spirits away.

Black lion costume and spectators during Chinese New Year Parade, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Black lion costume and spectators during Chinese New Year Parade, New York Chinatown, 2002.(Lia Chang)

The mask of the lion is made from paper-maché and bamboo, and fits over a dancer’s shoulders. The dancer can move the lion’s eyes, mouth and ears with his hands. The lion’s body, which is attached to the head, consists of a long piece of cloth. It is often decorated with sequins and mock fur. Lion Dances are used to expel evil spirits and bring good luck.

White and Black Lion Costumes in Chinese New Year Parade, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

White and Black Lion Costumes in Chinese New Year Parade, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

 

Peking Opera Performer, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Peking Opera Performer, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Lion and Dragon masks in Chinese New Year Parade, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Lion and Dragon masks in Chinese New Year Parade, New York Chinatown, 2002. (Lia Chang)

 

Gold Dragon, New YorkChinatown, 2003. (Lia Chang)

Gold Dragon, New YorkChinatown, 2003. (Lia Chang)

The dragon is a huge puppet. The mask made of bamboo or paper-maché is worn by one man, and the long body of brightly colored cloth is carried by the many dancers hidden beneath it.

RED AND CHINESE NEW YEAR TRADITIONS
Red is my favorite color. It symbolizes fire and during Chinese New Year, Chinese wear the color red because it is believed that wearing red will scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.

Lia Chang in Red Cheongsam, Los Angeles, 2009. (Lia Chang)

Lia Chang in Red Cheongsam, Los Angeles, 2009. (Lia Chang)

Lia Chang in her custom-tailored red cheongsam from Hong Kong. The cheongsam or qipao (chipao) was created in the 1920s in Shanghai and was made fashionable by socialites and upper-class women.

Detail of Traditional Red Silk Chinese Robe, circa 1950, 2009. (Lia Chang)

Detail of Traditional Red Silk Chinese Robe, circa 1950, 2009. (Lia Chang)

My grandfather brought this robe from China for my grandmother.

Jade Bracelet and Red Envelopes, 2009. Photo by Lia Chang

Jade Bracelet and Red Envelopes, 2009. Photo by Lia Chang

My mother gave me this jade bracelet, which was given to her by my great-grandmother, during a Chinese New Year’s eve dinner many years ago. The Lai See (red envelopes) with our family Chinese name were given to be my Auntie Pauline. Traditionally, Red envelopes are given during Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried children. The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for “wealth”), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes.

Colorful Lanterns, New York, 2002. Lia Chang

Colorful Lanterns, New York, 2002. Lia Chang

Hanging Paper Firecracker and Scrolls, New York, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Hanging Paper Firecracker and Scrolls, New York, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Baby Lion heads and Noisemakers, New York, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Baby Lion heads and Noisemakers, New York, 2002. (Lia Chang)

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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