The Museum of Chinese in America

Founded in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.

From Our Collection: Lion Dances, Then and Now

If you’ve been to Chinatown during Lunar New Year, you know that the celebrations are loud and colorful: street vendors sell vibrant fruits and flowers, and bright confetti lines the streets. The most well-known part of Lunar New Year, though, seems to be the lion dances that attract throngs of people every year.

During the new year, dance troupes visit local homes and businesses in the neighborhood, accompanied by the sound of deep drums and sharp cymbals. The lion dance—an ancient tradition—is meant to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck and prosperity. Our Collections Department presents a few photographs of lion dances from the last century:

Early 1900’s. 2004.073.018, MOCA Collection. Colored postcard depicting the Chinese Lion Dance on Chinese New Year. Printed on the back: “Chinatown at the Turn-of-the-Century from the antique original. Carinell-Vincent Co. Courtesy of K. Yee Collection.”

1966. 2000.020.036, Courtesy of William Yukon Chang, MOCA Collection. Chinese New Year Lion standing next to two women in dresses with mayoral candidate John Lindsay standing in the right corner.


1966. 2000.020.039, Courtesy of William Yukon Chang, MOCA Collection. Photograph taken during Chinese New Year, titled “April 23, John Lindsay Campaigns in N.Y. Chinatown during NYC Mayoral Contest.”


1979. 2004.045.031, Courtesy of Robert Glick, MOCA Collection. Front view of a lion dancer going down a street.


2001. 2002.014.045, Recovering Chinatown: the 9/11 Collection, MOCA. Lion dancers in costume on a Chinatown street.


2003. 2003.001.005, Courtesy of Thomas Holton, MOCA Collection. Two men wearing lion heads, Chinese New Year, 2003.

This year’s parade & festival is on Sunday, February 6th, from 11:30AM to 4PM. More information is available here. If you’d like to share your lion dance photos or memories, e-mail schinwolner at mocanyc dot org.


Filed under: Collections, Lunar New Year, MOCA Monday, , , , ,

One Response

  1. Daria says:

    These photos are a great way to show the timeline.

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