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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Culture
Kirin a mythical creature lives in dances
    2017-September-26  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Yang Mei

yangmei_szdaily@163.com

HAVE you ever seen an animal that has one horn and dragon scales but doesn’t have teeth? Most likely nobody has. Such an animal would be called a kirin, and it only exists in ancient Chinese folklore. Today they live on through traditional Chinese dance.

Kirin bears the characteristics of dragons, horses and reindeer. In Chinese culture, kirin is deemed a revered animal, along with the dragon, phoenix and turtle, which symbolize peace, auspice and longevity respectively. Unlike the dragon dance, which can be seen nationwide during traditional festivals or grand opening ceremonies, kirin dance is less common and only practiced in Hakka culture.

It was not until recent centuries that kirin culture has developed into a performing arts, kirin dance. Kirin dance incorporates music, dancing, and applied arts and acrobatics, thus carrying great artistic, aesthetic, religious, mythical and historic values.

According to Wang Keping, former general secretary of Chinese Culture Research Association of Shenzhen and a researcher with the Chinese Film & TV Information Science Academy of Beijing, there are five professional kirin dance teams recognized as provincial-level intangible cultural heritage in Shenzhen. The Liwei kirin dance team is one of them.

To get a closer look at and better understand this intangible cultural heritage, Shenzhen Daily paid a visit to Shuiku New Village in Luohu District on Sept. 14.

Kirin dance possesses a long and prominent history of more than five centuries. Liwei kirin dance in particular, which was named after Liwei Village, originated just 100 or so years ago. Located at the foot of Wutong Mountain in Yantian District, Liwei Village was founded by Hakka people. However, by the end of 1950s and the early 1960s, six villages including Liwei Village were destroyed by a flooding of the Shenzhen Reservoir. The six villages then combined to make a new village, Shuiku New Village. So today’s kirin dance team of Shuiku New Village is in fact the continuation of the Liwei dance team.

“Liwei kirin dance is the most developed in Shenzhen and has been taught through five generations,” Wang said.

With the deafening sounds of suona, gong and drum, two 5-meter-long crouching kirin props rise to show their might as the boisterous performance begins. They first bow to the four corners of the stage, which stand for heaven, earth and the audience. On their back, a four-word phrase is written that goes fengtiaoyushun which literally means “seasonable weather with gentle breeze and timely rain.” As Wang mentioned, kirin dance originated in a farming culture, therefore kirins are meant to bring a good harvest to farmers.

After the bowing, the kirins lick their feet and play around in a lighthearted way to the amusement of the audience. In the middle of the dance, one person tosses a bundle of green vegetables onto the stage. The green bundle immediately captures the kirins’ attention as they only eat grass or vegetables. “Kirins don’t have teeth and only eat vegetables, so they are close to people,” said Liao Ruiguang, the fifth-generation heir of Liwei kirin dance and chairman of Shuiku New Village Industrial Company.

As affable and friendly as kirins are, not everyone is allowed to see them, for there is a demon-detecting mirror which scares away monsters and freaks. “It’s auspicious if kirins visit your home during the Spring Festival because they are believed to bring harvest and safety for the family,” Liao said.

But before picking the vegetable bundle up and swallowing it, kirins first gaze at it with curiosity, then pick it up and take their time to enjoy the “food” in their “cave.” After the “meal,” they feel so ecstatic that they rise again to show the audience their satisfaction. Before the whole dance finishes, they once again bow to the heaven, earth and the audience individually to show respect.

As an auspicious creature, kirins are welcome in Hakka families. “Kirin dance is only practiced during traditional festivals. On the first days of the lunar year, kirin dance teams will make appearance one after another and visit all the houses in the village to offer prayers of protection. In return, residents will give them red envelopes to secure their luck,” Wang explained.

The seemingly easy performance is quite demanding and the performers have to be physically strong. “The head of a kirin weighs 2.8kg and the quilt 1.5kg. You may think 2.8kg is nothing, but if you wield it for 10 minutes or more, it feels 10 times heavier because you have to wield it without stop. So to be a kirin dance team member, you should go through some basic training first,” said Liao.

Apart from a good body, kirin dance performers should have a good character. “We need someone with virtuousness and integrity. Despicable people are not allowed to do kirin dance. This is our tradition,” Liao added.

As an intangible cultural heritage item, kirin dance should be preserved and passed on. He Jiawei, a post-90s member of Liwei kirin dance team, is determined to do it. “I grew up watching elders do kirin dance. When I’m older, I thought I’ll be capable of performing this dance. It’s a tradition passed down by our ancestors. Now it’s our responsibilities to carry it forward,” he said with pride.

According to Liao, the Liwei kirin dance team currently has 70 or so members who are all local villagers. However, the fact that kirin dance is well-preserved in Shuiku New Village would be impossible without full support from the village-level industrial company and the greater society, especially those who are protecting intangible cultural heritage.

Wang Chengtai, president of Shenzhen Protection Association of Intangible Cultural Heritage, is the one who facilitated kirin dance’s application for intangible cultural heritage. According to Wang, the Liwei kirin dance team was selected as a city-level intangible cultural heritage in 2006 and as provincial-level intangible cultural heritage in 2007. Besides the Liwei kirin dance team, there are other four professional kirin dance teams in Shenzhen which are on the list of provincial intangible cultural heritage, including Longcheng kirin dance team, Guanlan kirin dance team, Dachuankeng kirin dance team and Bantian Yongshengtang kirin dance team. Of these teams Dachuankeng and Bantian Yongshengtang teams are on the list of national intangible cultural heritage.

“Liwei kirin dance is the most

well-developed in Shenzhen and has

been taught through five generations.”

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Shenzhen Daily E-mail:szdaily@szszd.com.cn