Author: Fan Wenyan
The New Year is the day that children look forward to and rejoice the most, and the deepest memory of my childhood is wearing new clothes and carrying money for the New Year in my hometown in the countryside, running around the world to see the lions and pray for the New Year.
Lion playing, also known as lion dance, is a kind of folk cultural activity with a long history in the hometown. As soon as the lion dance team entered the moon, they began to rehearse intensively one after another. On the morning of the first day of the new year, there will be a formal rehearsal at the crossroads in the village, and just after the fifth day of the new year, we will go door-to-door to pray for the New Year. He had to be busy until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, and only ended after participating in the collective performance in Bayi Square in the city, and was invited to Lincun from time to time to fight in the ring.
My hometown is a big village, and it is not the turn of every family to come to the door, so it can only be carried out selectively. My grandparents were both rural primary school teachers, teaching and educating people for the benefit of their children and grandchildren, and they were the first people in the village to do good and accumulate virtue, and they were highly respected. Therefore, it is always scheduled in the first dial every year.
When you enter the door, first “Knock, knock; Knock knock, Gong; ……。 “The rhythm is bright to beat the gong and drum, the lion leader turns to the courtyard to put a firecracker, two little lions jump alive and follow behind to open the field, and then they have to solemnly introduce the big golden lion into the field to circle the field, hold their fists and make an appearance, and squat in the field. At this time, the host of the leader of the tour pronounced the name of the host meaningfully, that is, “Big brother so-and-so or uncle so-and-so…”, and then called the board with a unique traditional tune, accompanied by gongs and drums. Of course, the owner had already greeted everyone into the courtyard with joy at this moment, and shyly sat in the main house position opposite the big lion in the courtyard. The host first sang a few popular words, such as congratulations on the New Year, happiness and well-being, smooth winds and rain, abundant food and clothing, all things prosperous and other auspicious words, and then began to praise the merits of the main family. For my grandparents, it is natural to praise them for how hard and diligent they teach and educate people, how they are full of peach and plum, how meritorious they are, how good people are rewarded, and even when it comes to teaching Mr. Teach at night, ghosts and gods have to give way, etc., saying that grandparents smiled, and the people in the courtyard applauded one after another. I was young at the time, so my grandfather watched it all with excitement and curiosity. Grandpa hugged me with one arm and greeted everyone non-stop, and grandma was busy handing cigarettes to the children and scattering some melon seeds, peanuts and small biscuits, and even fruit candy at that time. At this time, the grandfather of the team leader immediately transferred and praised his grandmother alone, praising her grandmother not only for the hardships of teaching, but also for raising her children and housework, and the credit was greater than that of her grandfather. Ridiculing grandpa for giving three points to grandma on weekdays is “coaxing the daughter-in-law to do things, afraid that the wife is a capable person” and so on, not only singing grandparents laughing and bending over, but also making the men, women and children who were watching in the courtyard laugh again. The deep rhyme, sonorous tone, and humorous singing still echo clearly in my ears.
In the midst of this laughter, the more enthusiastic gongs and drums sounded from weak to strong, and the grand and wonderful lion dance performance officially began.
First, two little lions jumping alive follow the lion guide to repeatedly awaken the big lion that seems to be sleeping (little lion dance, big lion pas deux). The lion body is sewn with linen dyed golden yellow on a double layer of thick cloth, combed into a thick lion skin (quilt), and is draped by two lion dancers, and underneath it is worn with lion trousers and gold-clawed hoof boots of the same color as the lion’s body; The head is huge and powerful, fierce and formidable; Huge eyes bulge, proud of the sky; Blood basin gulp, swallowing mountains and rivers; The neck hangs a string of copper bells, and the sound is deafening and majestic when it dances. The lion dancer takes the lead and the tail of the other, cooperates tacitly, and moves quickly. As the gong and drum beat slowly entered, around the field, gradually the lion’s head danced wildly, the golden-tailed dragon flew, the mighty and majestic, vivid, resembling a real lion, scared me to hold my grandfather’s neck tightly and dare not relax. The lion usher is dressed like a Tang Dynasty warrior, with a yellow scarf wrapped around his head, a coat with a gold hoop, sleeves and legs, fast boots, and a spinning colored ball in his hand, accompanied by a gong and drum to tease in front of the lion. The simulated lion performs skills such as tumbling, falling, jumping, climbing, spitting balls, and worshiping, and also takes away plum blossom stakes, jumps tables, steps on balls and other difficult movements, with realistic expressions and skillful skills. It is also accompanied by characteristic actions such as tickling, shaking, and licking hair, which is really vivid and has won applause from the whole courtyard. Grandma took advantage of the situation to quickly put an old cigarette and a bottle of Lu Baijiu that had been prepared long ago on the offering table in the courtyard to show her gratitude. At that time, the sound of gongs and drums suddenly increased, and the lions and lions danced more wildly and cheerfully, pushing the whole event to a climax. As the poet Bai Juyi vividly described this scene in the poem “Western Liang Trick”: “… The carved wood is the head silk for the tail, and the gold plated eyes and silver teeth. The Fenxun sweater swings both ears, like thousands of miles from quicksand. The villagers only used the words “play” and “trouble” to summarize their vivid, insolent, enthusiastic, and festive situation to the fullest. The rich and simple nostalgia and warm and cheerful scene were also deeply engraved in my ignorant and curious childhood memories at the moment the gong drummed.
In the cheers of the people, the golden lion unexpectedly jumped up and ran straight to the hall house where his grandparents lived, and after turning around the house, he jumped to the kang, and the lion’s tail carried the lion’s head upright and rotated in a circle and then lay down next to each other, in order to show the intention of driving away evil and disaster for the owner. Finally, he jumped from the kang tou into the ground, jumped and rushed outside the gate, and his grandparents were busy “Tired, tired!” Thank you, thank you! “, and the next family jumped away with joy. And just now, I was still terrified, but I woke up and didn’t watch it! Then I cried and cried out to my grandfather, who was about to return to clean the yard, and took my hand and followed him to watch the next one.
The custom of playing lions to pray for the New Year was an activity that children never tired of in the old days when cultural activities were poor. For most of the first month, they followed the lion dance team throughout the village almost from morning to night, and everywhere they went, they had to crowd to the front and gather together, listening with relish to the different praises and anecdotes of the village that the host came with gongs and drums. They rushed to grab the melon seeds and peanuts and low-quality biscuits distributed by the main family, from one family to another, and some even followed to the outer villages to watch the jousting. The fighting, laughing and playfulness along the way makes the whole village full of vitality.
What cannot be ignored is that the rap of the lion dance host is also a key part of this purpose. He must not only have all kinds of rich social knowledge, but also be familiar with the specific conditions of each family and understand the hearts of the Lord’s family. Quick thinking and quick response, not only to say that the benefits of the main family are happy enough, but also to grasp it properly. And good at using some humorous ridicule that is appreciated by both elegant and common people, to push the event to a climax. Therefore, most of the hosts are sharp-tongued, can speak well, and with their smooth sentences and fast-paced dialect colloquialism, they sing the half-chanted and half-sung greetings vividly and interestingly, making people feel happy and happy after listening. The new purpose of prayer celebration is reflected to the extreme. With the development of society, the content of the singing has gradually expanded and been continuously enriched, both to pray for the New Year and to celebrate the Spring and to report on agricultural affairs; It is both good and good and evil; It tells anecdotes and conveys current news. In rap, it has gradually become musical, and even the tunes of some popular songs have been absorbed, and finally formed such a unique traditional cultural form that integrates dance and music art.
My grandfather, who listened to the history teacher, said that the history of lion playing in his hometown originated in the Three Kingdoms period, when Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei officially introduced it to the Changzhi region when he moved the capital from Pingcheng (present-day Datong City) to Luoyang, and it has been more than a thousand years. Because yellow was most revered in ancient China, symbolizing auspicious wealth, the lion, the king of beasts covered in gold, was regarded as a beast of auspicious by the ancients. Especially after being designated as “Rui Lion” by Emperor Wudi of Wei, every Spring Festival and festive days, people would use the ancient form of lion dance to pray for auspicious and good luck, and gradually interpreted into one of the most extensive folk cultural activities in the country. For thousands of years, the Rui lions with different shapes and mighty dances have unrestrained the yearning and totems of generations of Chinese sons and daughters for a better life.
I have to say that the traditional cultural customs of the hometown lion dance to pray for the New Year, in the Spring Festival, the most solemn festival of the Chinese nation, does bring incomparable joy and a high atmosphere of spring to the villagers. As soon as the lion dance is over, the cold wind immediately softens, and the vitality and warmth will immediately rush to the front and back of the farmhouse, and the villagers are busy preparing for spring ploughing while looking forward to the good wishes they have just prayed for. In the tears of my grandparents, I reluctantly returned to the city, picked up my schoolbag and started a new semester.
Nowadays, more than 30 years have passed suddenly, and the lives of the villagers have already undergone earth-shaking changes, from abundant clothing and food to a relatively well-off to the trend of modern urbanization. The custom of praying for the New Year has gradually evolved into an intangible cultural heritage in this ever-changing and drastic change, and has been passed on to university campuses, and has been presented to the elegant hall of various arts for people to enjoy and taste. But no matter how the society changes and how long the years pass, the red fire of the golden lion dancing wildly in my hometown to pray for the New Year has always been a thick nostalgia that lingers in my heart…