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Chinese Lion Heads


The Chinese Lion Head is a brightly coloured and adorned Lion head, typically made from paper mache and wool, with a moveable mouth and often blinking eyes.

Cultural notes

Lion dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume to bring good luck and fortune.

The Chinese lion dance is sometimes mistakenly referred to as dragon dance by most first timers. An easy way to tell the difference is that a lion is normally operated by just two dancers and has a tail, while a dragon is longer and is held on poles by many people. Chinese lion dance fundamental movements can be found in Chinese martial arts.

The lion dance is usually performed during the Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals. It may also be performed at important occasions such as business opening events, special celebrations or wedding ceremonies, or may be used to honour special guests by the Chinese communities.

The Chinese Lion Dance is performed accompanied by the music of beating of tanggu (drum) (in Singapore, datanggu), cymbals, and gongs. Instruments synchronise to the lion dance movements and actions.

To participate, wait until the lion comes over and bats its large eyes at you, then feed a small donation (ideally inside a red envelope) into its mouth. The red envelopes are known as hong bao in Mandarin and symbolically represent good luck and prosperity.

Suggested activities

Books/ Storytime:

  • Read ‘The Lion Dance’: Sam, Sebbie, Di-Di-Di and Xandy are going to see a lion dance today. But where is the lion? Is he still at the zoo? Or stuck backstage? When the siblings open the curtain to find the lion, they decide to surprise everyone with a performance of their own!

  • Kids Around the World Celebrate’Everyone loves a reason to have a good time, and although cultures around the world have their own unique feasts and festivals, we all share many of the same reasons to celebrate. Now you can learn about the many ways people from around the globe celebrate theirspecial days, and join in the fun! Celebrate Chinese New Year while making chiao-tzu dumplings, thenpop over to Saudi Arabia and taste delicious date-nut cookies called ma amoul while celebrating Eid ul-Fitr. Make an elaborate Venetian mask to wear at a masquerade ball in Venice during carnevale, then pound out a festive rhythm on the Igbo drum you vemade and celebrate the Iriji festival in Nigeria. Eat, drink, and make merry with the many diverse and exciting crafts, recipes, andactivities in this book. No matter what language you say it in, celebrations are fun!

Group/ Circle Time:

  • Discussion: How do different cultures celebrate?
  • Comparison: borrow both the Lion and Dragons head, discuss the similarities and differences between the two

Music and Movement:

  • Use drums, gongs and cymbals to create rhythm and beats
  • Take turns being the head and tail of the dragon, use different movements to travel through the space – snaking, jumping, ducking up and down

Art and Craft:

  • Draw your own Lion’s head using traditional Chinese colours. Use streamers, ribbons or paper to create ‘tails’

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The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.