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Rucheng Dance of Incense Burning Dragons

The Dance of Incense Burning Dragons has been popular for quite a long time. According to the Journal of Ru County, Hunan Province, it was quite popular along the Nanxiang Area, and was usually held during the Lantern Festival. In the process of the performance, two dragons (mother dragon and child dragon), and two lions (mother lion and child lion) dance together, with one lion leading the road before the dragons and the other lion following the dragons.

The incense burning dragons are made from bamboos and rice straws. The "mother dragon" is seven sections in length, while the "child dragon" five sections long, both inserted with Buddhist Arhat incenses locally made (around 0.53 meters long) all over. When the night falls, relying on the three sounds of earth artillery as the signal, people play musical instruments, and ignite fireworks and firecrackers. And then with torches, they ignite all the incenses on the dragons and carry them for a parade. What a magnificent scene!

The performances of the incense burning dragons include tossing, water spraying, sinking to the bottom, leaping, devouring, sleeping, etc. The technical skills required for performing sinking to the bottom and devouring are difficult. The two lions, which lead or follow the dragons respectively, will make some other actions besides the tossing and leaping.

The folk dance of incense burning dragons is usually held when the plague of insects prevails. The ignited incenses inserted on the dragons always attract insects to fly toward them. The dragons-carriers then cross streets and lanes till they arrive at the field where water is available and stop there, then dive the dragons into the water and drown the insects. In the sense of eliminating pests, this dragon dance is more practical than other forms of dragon dance.

Translated by Qiu Xian

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