The Traditional Dragon Dance 


In ancient China, the Dragon was considered the 'deity' of water, thunder, clouds, and rain, a herald of blessings, and the symbol of holy men. As the Emperors were considered the holy persons on earth, the idea of the Dragon being the symbol of Imperial power is based on this notion.


Three Important ceremonies/ rites were performed during Imperial times were:


The Spring Festival was the first day to the tenth day of the first lunar month; in 2016, it was February 8. This rite was conducted in respect of Lung Wang 龍王, Controller of the Rain. In ancient times this ceremony was presided and led by the Emperor at Da Zhong Temple 大鐘寺 the Buddhist temple near the Forbidden City.


This dragon ceremony's second important performance was the Lantern Festival, conducted on the 15th day of the first lunar month. In 2016 this festival fell on February 22.

This ceremony was conducted at Qianmen 前門, Tianan Men 天安門 Ministry of Works and Ministry of War in the Forbidden City.


The third important festival and for our Dragon is the Dragon Raising its Head ceremony called Long Tai Tou 龍抬頭, rite, also called Long Tou Jie (龍頭節) - Dragon's Head Festival and; Chun Long Jie 春龍節 Spring Dragon's Festival. This rite was performed on the second day of the second lunar month. (In 2016, this date was March 5). Traditionally it meant that after this rite, the rain would increase. The Henan Shaolin Association dragon first appeared in New York in 1974 and made its first official appearance March 20, 1976, because that was the day a public venue was available and the complexity of moving dates and to simply the Dragons yearly raising we use March 20 as the Dragon's 'birthday.' 


Dragon Raising its Head festival is first documented in the Yuan Dynasty. It appears that the 'leaders of the Yuan wanted to connect themselves to Han Chinese for reasons of prestige and status and to connect themselves to the Tang Dynasty. This festival gained popularity during the Ming dynasty, the Qing Dynasty.


The Shaolin Imperial Five Clawed Golden Dragon - is a symbol of divine protection and vigilance and represents the greatest divine force on earth - a force that is energetic, decisive, optimistic, and intelligent. The Dragon reminds people of heaven's benevolence, greatness, goodness, and blessings.


This Northern Shaolin traditional ceremony uses two types of Golden Imperial Nine Section, Five Clawed, dragons: Tianlong (天龍) and Shenlong (神龍), which in ancient times were part of the ceremonies conducted on behalf of the imperial government. The traditional dance had thirty established dance patterns, each used for different occasions, rules of an entrance, and special rules and taboos, such as dancers not allowing to step over the dragon body, a maneuver often seen in modern dragon dancing.  MORE


* There were others as well.




Qing Dynasty  Imperial Golden Dragon  

Qing Dynasty, 9 section dragon 

© 2011 Ann Kinross /

© 2012 by Honan Shaolin (Cultrual & Historical) Association, Alberta, Canada, and Honan Shaolin Association, Golden Dragon Team, Inc.™ 河南少林金龍會, New York.