Lion Dance


Lion Dance Classes

The Tucson Chinese Cultural Center Lion Dance Classes teach kids and adults the tradition Chinese ceremonial dance. Classes feature interactive teaching from Sifus Kevin and Ben Lau. All skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced are welcome to join.

Classes are held on selected Sundays from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Contact (520) 292-6900 for registration / questions.

Lion Dance

Traditional Chinese: 舞獅  |  Simplified Chinese: 舞狮

The Lion Dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture, in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume.  The Chinese lion dance is often mistakenly referred to as Dragon Dance. However, an easy way to tell the difference is that a lion is operated by one or two people, while a dragon needs many people.  Also, in a lion dance, the performers’ faces are covered, since they are inside the lion. In a dragon dance, the performers can be seen since the dragon is held upon poles. Basic Chinese lion dance fundamental movements can be found in most Chinese martial arts.


Although no real lions ever existed in china, lion and the tradition of lion dance have existed in Chinese culture and history for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese culture the lions are seen as peaceful creatures and widely considered as divine animals of nobility and dignity. Since the 3’rd century AD a pair of guardian lion statues, can often be seen in front of official buildings and temple’s to protect these premises. The pair is often made up of a male lion on the right and a female lion on the left.


There are many different stories and myths about how and when the lion dance was originated. Since there are no exact historical records about its origin it is difficult to place lion dance historically and state exactly how it started.

One of the most popular stories places the origin of lion dance to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906). According to the legend the emperor of the time had a strange dream one night. In his dream a strange creature saved his life and carried him to safety. The next day, wondering what this creature was and what the dream meant, the emperor got his ministers together and described his dream. One of the ministers explained to the emperor that the strange creature resembled a lion from the west. The emperor ordered his ministers to create the lion he saw in his dream and since the lion saved the emperor’s life, the lion became a symbol of good luck, happiness and prosperity.

Another story tells the story of a small village in china which was terrorized by a lion. One account has it that all the villagers got together and used pans and pots to make very loud noises to scare the lion off. It is said some even put on costumes which looked like the lion. Eventually their trick worked and the lion was gone. Another account of this same story tells that the villagers didn’t now how to stop the lion’s attacks so they went to ask for the help of a Buddhist monk. It is said that the monk tamed the lion which in turn became the protector of the people. This monk is often represented by big headed Buddha (dai to fut), seen usually in most southern lion dances.