Dances of China

On July 22, 2011, in Cultural Experience, by Jack Li

You might have heard about the Peking opera and seen the Dragon dance during Chinese New Year celebrations, but did you know that Chinese dance is one of the most varied dance forms in the world? Having originated from all regions of China, it is rich in meaning and its performance demands deep understanding of the Chinese culture. Check China Tours and China Flights and travel to the birthplace of dance!


Dance in China can be traced all the way back to the Neolithic era. The first choreographed dance originated in the army, gradually evolving into military exercises. What is known today as the traditional Chinese dance emerged over the centuries and is de facto a mix of folk dances from all over China, as the regions were being conquered by the Han Chinese. In Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD) the Music Bureau was established, bringing together folk dances and songs from different parts of the country.


Chinese dance is based on ancient symbolism. It was performed to express respect towards the spirits of Earth and Heaven. Choreographed hand and feet movements acted out their emotions and aspects of life. Apart from such ceremonial dances, martial (showing fighting techniques), dramatic (depicting historical events) and agricultural (praising nature and work) dances can be discerned.

Chinese dance today

Nowadays, traditional Chinese dance is becoming more and more popular among the youth. Many dancers initially study ballet or modern dance, which gives a new perspective to traditional choreographies.  The mostly performed Chinese dances are believed to be Chinese Ribbon Dance, Chinese Silk Fan Dance, Chinese Round Fan Dance, Chinese Feather Fan Dance, Chinese Classical Dance, Chinese Sword Dance, Chinese Long Sleeve Dance, Chinese Waist Drum Dance, Chinese Lion Dance and Chinese Dragon Dance.

Dragon Dance – a group of dancers (up to 50!) carries a giant Dragon costume on poles. The dance mimics the movements of the Dragon, one of the most important symbols of power and dignity in Chinese culture. In China itself, it is not unusual to see a Dragon dance involving two or even nine dragon costumes!



Lion Dance – it is similar in concept to the dragon dance with a difference that it is performed by two dancers. They mimic the movements of the lion, dressed in a lion costume. Elements of the lion dance can be found in Chinese martial arts. In China, there are three different styles of the lion dance – Northern Chinese, Southern Chinese and Taiwanese. Lion dance is also encountered in Japan and Korea.

Fan Dance – it has been danced for centuries during important ceremonies. It is very delicate and requires precision from the dancer, as the rhythm of the music changes constantly. There are many types of Chinese Fan Dance – folk and classical, and it can be performed solo or in a group.

Ribbon Dance – it is one of the most popular Chinese dances. It features a performer dancing with a long silk ribbon attached to a short stick. The choreography is precisely synchronised, making it extremely spectacular. It is associated with the legend of an attempt to assassinate the Emperor.

Now, that you know more about Chinese dance and its history, why not try it for yourself? Consult China Travel for more information.


Jack Li
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