There is a saying where “Dancing is that by which one regulates the eight sources of sounds and thereby conducts the eight winds”. This saying refers to the “eight trigrams” of the Chinese classical instruments being categorized by which material they are made out of. Usually a Lion dance is accompanied by several of instruments; from gongs to drums and also a cymbals. These instruments plays a big role in portraying the Lioness movements and emotions, Thus, portraying a story telling tale within its own dance. For an example; The drums, the sound and the pace of how the drums are played can show us how it feels, as when the player plays a fast tempo.
Despite how random the patterns seemed to be when being played, they actually have a set of patterns to guide the lion’s lead; such as the 7 star pattern and the 3 star pattern. Just like what have been stated above; a lion dance is accompanied by a several of instruments such as the drums, the cymbals and the gong. Firstly the Drums; in the culture itself there are 3 types of drums that can be used for the dance; it depends on the location by which the locals use. Most of the drums are made out of wood with spring coils inside of it, this gives the drum a more in depth sound to it, the surface of the drums are made using ox skin that is pinned around the sides of the drums and is finished with a layer of glow to maintain or preserve the skin. This makes it last longer. In a nut shell, that’s how they create their drums, some people tend to make designs around the drums to make it more appealing but honestly it doesn’t really play a big part, it’s up to preferences. One out of three of the drums is; Dàgǔ, this means big drums. In the old ages, people usually used it to strike the hours, meaning to say use it as a clock. They were also used for other ceremonial events such as rituals and etc. Just because of it loud noise or loud sound that it produces; people often use it to assemble or father people around; thus giving it another name as “Assembly drums”. Most of the time, this drum is often used for the Northern lion dance. Next is; Huā pén xíng gǔ , Flower pot shaped drum and Guàn xíng gǔ, Jar shaped drums.
Also representing for the Northern lion dance, this drum is often for stages or indoor performances, just like how they are named; they have a large top that shrinks down to the bottom giving it a jar shape. They usually look like a barrel with only one surface opening; unlike the other two drums, this drums are for southern lion dances. The pattern that are played with this drums follows the tempo of the lion’s heart beat and movements. This gives the performance a bit of hype and intensity. Moving on to the next instruments is the Cymbals; these pairs can be easily identified because it also mimics the cymbals on a normal average drum sets that most drummers use in bands. Cymbals are made out of brass and are usually attached together with a rope, this instrument can be played in different rhythms or ‘strikes’. To make it more interesting, the drums should be played in synchronization with the cymbals. Despite having to use the same instruments, the cymbals used in northern lion dance and southern lion dance is different. The northern cymbals are known as Jīng bō; or better known as ‘Tibetan Bowler hat’. Fun fact about the northern approach to instruments is that they like to add their “jing”-prefix.
Regarding the strikes of the cymbals, there are three types of ‘Strikes’; the Grinding strike, the Hitting strike and the Singular strike. Firstly; The Grinding strike, this can be done by gliding the two cymbals together, this gives out a droning sound; usually to show that the lion is sleeping, Then; The Hitting Strike, by clashing the two cymbals together then slowing down the sound by dampening the cymbal towards the performer’s chest, usually used with the 3 star pattern or 7 star pattern of the drums. Lastly; The Singular Strike, soft strike of a one sided cymbal with a hard object on the rims only; the sound they create portrays that the lion is resting on the ground. The Last instrument used during the lion dance is; The Gongs, it is made out of a circular metal plaque. It is originated from eastern china. It resembles with the Indonesian gongs or any Malay gongs really, the only difference between the Malay gongs and the Chinese gongs is the fact that Chinese gongs are flat and the edges are turned over. It is usually played by striking a stick onto the center of the gong.
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