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Chinese Dance. by Cao Shumei. The History of Chinese Dance

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Chinese Dance


Cao Shumei

The History of Chinese Dance

Chinese dance, as a comprehensive art form, is an important part of the ancient Chinese term "Yue" which includes several elements such as poems, songs, dances and music. Chinese dance has its own unique vocabulary, meanings, and ordered structure that enable a dancer to fully express his thoughts and feelings with ease and grace.

Early History of Chinese Dance

The earliest forms of dance grew out of religious rituals—including exorcism dances performed by shaman and drunken masked dances—and courtship festivals and developed into a forms of entertainment patronized by the court.

After a period of time, dance was regarded as kind of physical exercise that help harmonize the body and the mind. It was incorporated into Confucian rituals and military exercises

By the A.D. 6th century pantomime dances were being performed in dynastic courts. Regarded as the precursors of Chinese theater, they blended stories, songs and dances. The performers wore masks or painted their faces.

Later History of Chinese Dance

In the Tang Dynasty dances and music styles from outside of China were incorporated into Chinese dance and Chinese styles were passed onto other parts of the world, particularly Korea and Japan. Hundreds of young men and women were trained in dance and music at a school called the Academy of the Pear Garden. Tang poets wrote of “the dance of the rainbow skirt and feathered jacket” and described how dancer used their long silk sleeves to accentuate their hand movements. This kind of sleeve dancing was also depicted in Buddhist cave art from this period.

After the Tang dynasty the custom of foot binding began to take root. This was a severe blow for women dancers. It is difficult to walk, let alone dance with bound feet. Dances performed in dance theater and Confucian ritual were the preserve of males. Most of the dances in Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties were associated with theaters.

Through further development in the Feudal society, especially after the Han Dynasty, the dance culture reached its peak in the Tang Dynasty. After the Song Dynasty, it entered a transformation period as a result of the changes in the entire art field

The history of Chinese dance goes back more than 5000 years. Over the years, simple Chinese folk dances developed into intricate and beautiful performance pieces that are still performed by Chinese groups worldwide.
The Types of Chinese Dance

Chinese dance possesses numerous types. We have 56 nationalities. Each nationality, each region and each type of dance carry its own folk dance forms with unique features and flavors.

Some Chinese folk dances are like Western ballet, each movement from head to toe must be posed accurately. Hand movements, in particular, are very detailed and look graceful. The dancers move their wrists and fingers smoothly like waves. It is performed by one or by a group.The dance is energetic and joyful. The dancers run and leap around the full space on stage. Chinese folk dance has more lyrical use of arms, and the energy is more flowing whereas the Western ballet is more percussive.
Most folk dances tries to express beauty and loveliness. But there are also some dances that stand for strength and courage.
Folk dances directly reflect the lifestyles and customs of a people, each and everyone is an invaluable part of Chinese cultural heritage. Chinese dance is actually an integral body with common spirits and views. Dances for rituals, performances, social contacts, education, clans, trades, etc., all take up an important and indispensable place in the garden of dances.
Folk Dance Costumes

Folk dance costumes are simple casual everyday clothes. A plain shirt and pants that go below the knee is quite typical for some tribes. However, for some of the tribes who reside in colder regions, such as Inner Mongolia, the costumes are more heavy to fit the climate and may include a hat, extra long clothing, and heavy boots. Each tribe in China has its own unique style of clothing that are quite distinct. Their costumes speak volume about their culture and reflect their philosophy towards life, their livelihood (farmers, nomads etc.) and the environmentthey live in.

List of Several Types of Chinese Dance

民间舞蹈: Folk dance

踏歌: Tage (beat time to a song with the feet; dancing accompanied by singing)

秧歌: Yangko dance

腰鼓舞: Waist drum dance

花鼓灯: Flower-drum lamp dance

狮子舞: Lion dance

龙舞: Dragon dance

花灯: Festive lantern dance

安代舞: Andai dance- The dance originated from Horqin Grassland (Inner Mongolia) in early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

热巴: Reba ance - Reba dance is a Tibetan local art that involves performance of Rap, singing, dancing, acrobatics and drama. In the old days, the dance used to be

performed by the strolling family troupes.

赛乃姆: Sainaimu (this dance is prevalent throughout Xinjiang)

扁担舞: Shoulder pole dance

芦笙舞: Lusheng dance (Lusheng is a kind of reed-pipe wind instrument of some Chinese ethnic groups)

阿细跳月: The Moonlight Dance of Axi (Chinese pinyin: Axi Tiao Yue) - popular in Lunan, Luxi, and Mile of the Yunnan Province, is a kind of mass dance among axi and

Sani people of the Yi nationality.

农乐舞: Farming dance

孔雀舞: Pavane

雅舞: Ritual dance

祭祀舞蹈: Sacrifice dance

扇子舞:Fan dance

剑舞: Sword dance

宫廷舞蹈: Court dance

Chinese Peacock Dance by Yang Li-ping


Thousand-hand Bodhisattva

" A Buddism godness Guanyin Bodhisattva" is the Chinese national cultural heritage of mankind

2005 Spring Festival Gala on China Disabled Art Troupe show a Buddism godness Guanyin Bodhisattva moved the whole china.

In this video, the Thousand-Hand Dance included 63 hearing impaired Chinese performers. They are totally deaf.


Thank You !!