According to Chinese folklore, the Dragon has nine sons (nine manifestations or derivatives), and the Qilin ranks first. The Qilin is an auspicious sacred animal representing virtue and good fortune. Qilin dancing is an auspicious and joyous Hakka traditional practice where the colourful patterns of the dance costumes, the quick movements and the noises and racket are well-loved. The Hakka people would perform Qilin dance during festivals and celebrations to express their hopes for good fortune and a better future, and it is also one of the few entertainments the thrifty and simple Hakka people could enjoy.
It is said that originally, the Qilin’s appearances were drawn on paintings, but it was difficult to keep the painted scrolls as the Hakka people were constantly moving. Thus, they created the Qilin dance costume from the paintings and integrated martial-arts movements of Jiangxi Province to form the Qilin dance. It is an interpretation of the good fortune brought about by the Qilin, and the dance has been passed on for many generations. Each Hakka village in Hong Kong used to have their own Qilin team but as time passes by, the tradition is fading away and only a few villages have their own Qilin team now.
Qilin Dance has been listed in China as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009, so as to place importance on its preservation.