Lin’an Water Dragon: A Detailed Introduction

The Lin’an Water Dragon is a unique dragon dance performance originating from the Lin’an region of Hangzhou. Influenced by local history and culture, it features “water” as its core element and vividly showcases the agility and power of the dragon through its 50-meter-long body. The performance includes several segments, such as “Dragon Emergence from Water” and “Water Play and Wave Battle,” offering a high level of artistic appeal. The Lin’an Water Dragon is not only a form of folk art but also carries a rich historical and cultural heritage. It has been recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of Hangzhou and is widely protected and passed down, earning deep respect and admiration from the public.

Cultural Legend

During the Five Dynasties period, the legendary story of King Qian Liu of the Wuyue Kingdom was widely spread among the people. According to legend, when Qian Liu was born, a magnificent jade dragon appeared in the sky, seemingly heralding his extraordinary future. Under his reign, the kingdom flourished, and the people lived in peace and prosperity, viewing him as a divine protector akin to the sea dragon king. This legend not only highlighted Qian Liu’s majesty and benevolence but also became a source of admiration and commemoration for future generations.

Over time, the dragon dance, a traditional art form, gradually incorporated elements of this legend. Initially, the dragon dance was a way to express praise and reverence for Qian Liu. However, as time passed, this custom evolved into a unique cultural phenomenon in the Lin’an region.

In 2001, the Lin’an Cultural Center decided to create a dragon dance performance based on this rich legend, resulting in the production of “Lin’an Water Dragon.” This work not only filled a gap in Chinese dragon dance performances but also showcased unprecedented innovation in prop and performance design.

The dragon’s body in “Lin’an Water Dragon” extends over 50 meters, resembling a giant dragon soaring in the sky. The choreography breaks from traditional dragon dance routines, using “water” as the central theme and cleverly integrating the dragon’s deeds and legends. The performance includes interconnected scenes like “Dragon Emergence from Water,” “Water Play and Wave Battle,” “Absorbing Water Mist,” and “Bestowing Rain,” reflecting the legend of Qian Liu and engaging the audience deeply.

Notably, the performance team of “Lin’an Water Dragon” consists entirely of local farmers. Though they may lack professional dance training, they convey their sincere emotions, bringing the Chinese people’s reverence for the dragon to life. This genuine emotion in their performances creates a profound impact and resonance with the audience.

Due to its unique artistic charm and cultural depth, “Lin’an Water Dragon” has received high acclaim and recognition in various performances. It has become a cultural emblem of the Lin’an region, attracting national attention and praise.

Performance Characteristics

“Lin’an Water Dragon” is distinguished by its remarkable artistic innovation and deep cultural significance, setting it apart in the realm of Chinese dragon dance performances. This dance not only breaks traditional routines but also blends dragon and water elements, presenting a novel visual and sensory experience.

The dance spans an impressive 50 meters, creating a striking visual impact as the dragon seems to fly across the stage. The choreographer designed multiple interrelated scenes, such as “Dragon Emergence from Water,” “Water Play and Wave Battle,” “Absorbing Water Mist,” and “Bestowing Rain,” all of which are closely tied to the legend of King Qian Liu, offering colorful and dynamic dance sequences.

The performance team is usually composed of local farmers who, despite lacking professional dance backgrounds, perform with genuine and heartfelt emotions. Their authenticity in each movement and expression conveys a profound respect and affection for the dragon symbol in Chinese culture. Their performance transforms “Lin’an Water Dragon” into not just a highly enjoyable dance but also a cultural inheritance and expression.

Due to its distinct artistic style and deep cultural connotation, “Lin’an Water Dragon” has received numerous honors in various performances. It won the Gold Award at the “Feng Ya Song” Folk Art Competition in Hangzhou, highlighting its artistic value and prominence in folk art. Additionally, it received the International Friendship Cup Gold Award at the Fifth China International Folk Art Festival, signifying high international recognition.

Apart from domestic accolades, “Lin’an Water Dragon” has been invited to participate in cultural events such as the Shaoxing Huangjiu Festival and the West Lake Longjing Tea Festival. It also represented Chinese culture at the Nice Carnival in France in 2003, showcasing the unique charm of Chinese dragon dance to the world.

Appearance of the Lin’an Water Dragon

The Lin’an Water Dragon is distinguished by its striking features and impressive visual impact. Here is a detailed description of its appearance:

Length of the Dragon Body: The Lin’an Water Dragon measures over 50 meters in length, allowing it to exhibit the grandeur and majesty of a dragon when it dances.

Colors and Materials: The dragon’s body typically features vibrant colors such as gold and red, highlighting the auspicious nature of the dragon. The materials used are lightweight yet resilient fabrics, enabling flexibility and variation in movements.

Additional Elements: A distinctive feature of the Lin’an Water Dragon is a long blue silk ribbon, approximately 45 meters in length and 1.5 meters in width. This ribbon rolls and undulates with the dragon’s movements during the performance, creating the magnificent illusion of the dragon leaping through a sapphire sea.

Dragon Head Design: The dragon’s head is intricately crafted, with bright, expressive eyes and a mouth holding a dragon pearl, symbolizing its authority and mystery. During the performance, the dragon head executes various complex maneuvers, such as looking skyward and roaring or playing in the water, which heighten the visual spectacle.

Overall Effect: When the Lin’an Water Dragon dances in streets or squares, its majestic posture, vivid colors, and the rolling effect of the blue silk ribbon combine to form a breathtaking scene that captivates countless spectators.

Protection and Heritage

“Lin’an Water Dragon” has been included in Hangzhou’s list of representative intangible cultural heritage, receiving official protection and support.

In the Lin’an area, dedicated performance companies, such as the Hangzhou Lin’an Tengfei Water Dragon Performance Company, are committed to promoting and preserving this traditional art form.

In summary, the Lin’an Water Dragon is not only a unique dragon dance performance but also a reflection of Lin’an’s rich cultural heritage. Through its distinctive dance movements and storyline, it vividly portrays the dragon’s image and the Chinese people’s reverence for it.


1. “遗” 脉相承!这里的“含龙量”超高!临安发布, 2024-02-13.

2. 大年初一,50米“临安水龙”亮相杭州三大步行街, 杭州网, 2024-02-10.

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