Qilin Dance 麒麟舞
The Qilin or Chinese unicorn is the most important of the four sacred animals (Qilin 麒麟, Dragon 龙, Phoenix 凤, turtle 龟) in Chinese mythology. Like the dragon and phoenix, the Qilin has features of various animals and as it resembles the Western Unicorn, it is also known as the Chinese Unicorn.
Qilin as symbol of utopia
The Qilin is said to appear only during auspicious times or during periods of great peace and harmony. Since these are ideal social conditions that people aspired to, the Qilin is often shown in various art forms and used as a decorative symbol.
It is also represented in the Qilin dance although it is less common than the dragon dance and lion dance. Qilin dance is especially prevalent among the Cantonese and Hakkas dialect groups and is performed during festive and religious events. See for example, the Qilin dance performed during Chinese New Year in Birmingham Chinatown, UK.
The Qilin dance needs two performers for each Qilin and it is common for various Qilins to appear together. Most of the actions happen at the head of the Qilin and both performers need to co-ordinate to show the Qilin leaping into the air.
Like the lion dance, the Qilin dance is accompanied by a musical team and who gives audiences a hint of their arrival.
Qilin dance culture
In recent years, there are various competitions to promote the art of Qilin dance. In China, Qilin dance has also been classified as an intangible cultural asset.
Among the overseas Chinese community, the Qilin dance is more frequently seen in Europe than in South East Asia although it does exist.
Compared to the lion dance and dragon dance, the Qilin dance is less common and possibly even unheard of. With the various efforts to promote and to preserve the art of Qilin dance, hopefully more people will come to discover and appreciate this old art form.