Neither dragon nor lion – it’s the Hakka Qilin or Chinese unicorn dance

2 weeks ago 63

SINGAPORE - Even as lion and dragon dances still dominate festive celebrations, a rarer traditional Chinese folk performance is quietly gaining traction here.

Mr Eugene Wan, 44, who helms the Yan Wong Cultural Troupe – the only professional troupe for the Hakka Qilin (Chinese unicorn) dance in Singapore – is determined to preserve and promote the art form.

The Hakka Qilin dance, with a history of over 450 years, embodies the spirit of the Hakka community, who developed the dance to preserve their tradition and express their cultural heritage.

The qilin, a mythical creature in Chinese folklore, takes centre stage in this spirited and agile dance, symbolising prosperity, good fortune, and protection. Unlike the Western unicorn, the Chinese qilin is often depicted as a hybrid creature with features of different animals, such as a dragon’s head and a deer’s body.

“I like being unique,” said Mr Wan, who is a Cantonese but finds the qilin dance “mesmerising”.

“There were unicorn dances here in Singapore in the past, but many went extinct over time. I want to revive this.”

The unicorn dance is more difficult than the lion dance, he said.

Dancers have to perform intricate footwork, spins, and formations to mimic the majestic creature.

“With the lion, you can control its eyes, ears and head to show its expression. With the qilin, you can only make use of your body movements and imagination to bring it to life,” he said.

The music is distinctly different from the lion dance as it is influenced by ancient Hakka melodies, and is meant to reflect the movements of the mythical creature.

It uses bigger cymbals measuring 45cm to 50cm wide, unlike the ones in lion dance that are only 28cm to ...

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