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Chinese Religious Dance


Chinese dance forms an integral part of their culture since time immemorial. Religious dance symbolize a spiritual process of mental refreshment, cures unwanted thoughts and bestows wisdom. Dance in china has its origin from religion especially "Shamanism". It performs various religious rituals including dance. In pre historic times, dance was merely a religious ritual rather than a form of entertainment. Some of its religious dance forms are the "Wu" dance, Dongba dance, Qamo, cham, black hat dance and Shaman dance.

The Chinese religious dance originate from the "Wu" i.e. Sorcery dance of the primitive society. The term "Wu" has a dual meaning, one is the sorcerer and the other is the dance. The sorcerer has a close relation with dance from its birth. History records that "Wu" dance is an imitation of a person dancing with two long sleeves. It signifies that the person can communicate between gods and man through dancing. It has a great influence in traditional dance of various ethnic groups. The Bon religious dance of Tibetans, Tiaoshen dance of Han and Shaman dance are some of the dance forms that developed from Sorcery dance form.

One popular ancient religious dance is the "Dongba dance" of the Nazi people. The dance requires high skills. The characters are vivid with a clear painting of every dance. The dance has classification like "God dance" that describes the adventures of god to establish their supreme position, "Instrument dance" shows the power of ritual instruments and weapons, "Animal imitation dance" pictures birds and animals of different types and "Battle dance" shows the defeat of demons to protect the religious power.

Popular religious dance form of Buddhism is "Qamo" and "Cham". Qamo is a Buddhist religious dance in southwest china. This religious dance came into being during the conflict between Buddhism and Bon religion. The dance is performed with the belief to subdue the evil spirits in monasteries. It is a remarkable art form combining scripture chanting in perfect union with music and dance. Monks with solemn and splendid atmosphere perform it in temples. The "Cham" is performed as a ritual to drive out evil spirits and to please the guardian animal sacrifices.

The "Black hat dance" is a religious dance of Bon Tibetans and it is known as "Dance of Tshog of mother mantra". It is performed as a means of attaining spiritual realization. It is related with the cutting of "Tshog", an offering with parched flour, butter, cheese, dried fruits and Tibetan brewed ale. It is a private ritual but later on it formed a part of the annual festival with the traditional religious dances in the monasteries.

The shamanistic sorcerers of china performed a religious dance known as "Shaman dance". The dance is carried out during the sacrificial ritual and activities to drive out evil and disease. It is to entertain gods and to invoke blessings for all. A special robes, skirt and cap are designed for the sorcerer to wear on the occasion. The dance is accompanied with prayers, spells, chants and drumbeats. The dance style is straight and bold with few steps. Images of hawks, swans and horse riding are used in the dance.

The religious ritual forms a part of the Chinese religious dance. It contributes in making the rich cultural heritage of China.



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