San Joses Golden Parade
Awakening from a 7-Decade Sleep
Thanks to funding from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and Chinese
Historical and Cultural Project, San Joses Golden Dragon, glistening
the thousands of sequins and spangles, awakened on July 30, 1995, after
71 years of slumber.
According to educational tape at the
Chinese Cultural Center in Sunnyvale, CA, the earliest
documentation of the dragon dance was in the Western
Han dynasty about 200 BC. The dance was done to beg
for rain during a pernicious drought, by groups of males
from children to elderly after a three-day purifying fast.
It is likely that as soon as the early Chinese in America
had a large enough audience and means to do so, dragon and
lion dances were practised to bring good blessings and uplift the
spirit, probably the early 1900s. In California, Marysville, CA had a dragon in its Bok-Kai Festival Parades dating to the 1930s. A dragon is featured in the San Francisco
Chinese New Year Parade, which started some 55 years ago. San Jose was known for its Da-Jui Festival to appease the spirits who had no descendants to tend to them.
The San Jose Dragons last documented appearance was in front of the Ng Shing Gung in San Joses Heinlenville Chinatown in 1924. Then Gung Lum, the Golden Dragon, disappeared from public view. Decades later, with the aid of Redevelopment and CHCP funding, a donated head and tail from a dilapidated San Francisco dragon were restored and a new 125-body created. The new Golden Dragon awakened at the 1995 Chinese Summer Festival, when a mixture of potent herbs was rubbed onto his eyes in the traditional eye-dotting ceremony.
Due to the size of the dragon,
the dragon dance requires disciplined practice with a large
dedicated group of dancers. Traditionally, these dancers have
been martial artists with trained vigor. Recently, in order to
preserve this disappearing art, many variations have been devised
to encourage the participation of youth and women.
The San Jose Dragon has made 152 appearances since 1995.
In 1999, CHCP contributed $5,000 for the purchase
of a new dragon head and other maintenance and community performance expenses.