Geico Cheeks
Paper mâché Chinese dragon head

Kung-shi Fa-ts’ai, or Happy New Year!

Paper mâché Chinese dragon head
The Dragon Dance is one of the oldest traditions of the Chinese New Year celebration and now you and your family can participate in your own home. If you’re looking for fortune and good luck for the New Year, this is your chance because the dragon is believed to represent both!


  • Picture of a Chinese dragon
  • One large rubber balloon
  • Newspaper
  • 2 bottles of liquid starch
  • String
  • 2 packages of gold, red, and black tissue paper
  • White computer paper
  • Cardboard (empty cereal boxes will do)
  • Masking tape or wide transparent tape
  • White glue
  • Paper curling ribbon
  • Fabric ribbon


  1. Make sure to cover your work surface with newspaper – paper maché can get messy!
  2. Cut strips of tissue paper making some of the pieces tapered to fit easier into the contours of the balloon.
  3. Inflate the balloon and secure tightly.
  4. Pour some starch in a bowl and dip the tissue paper as you work – not all at once -and immediately place on the balloon.  It works best to place one layer vertically, the next horizontal, and so on. After two completed layers, hang the balloon up to dry over night. Hanging it above a wastebasket, in case it drips, is a good idea.
  5. Repeat the same process the next day.
  6. When the head is dry, pop and remove the balloon.
  7. Trim the bottom of the mask to make an opening that will be comfortable to go over someone’s head. The opening is an oval 5 or 6 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in the center and acts as the mouth of the dragon. Cut out the opening with a sharp knife.
  8. To make the dragon’s snout out of a cereal box, cut the box in half horizontally. Make concave cuts on the open edge of the box so it will fit snugly against the head.
    The boxes folded edge should face outward. Fasten the box above and below the eye opening on the balloon.
  9. Cut two rows of big, scary teeth slighter shorter than the width of the jaw. Cover the teeth with typing paper and tape them to the front of the snout, upper and lower jaw.
  10. Glue two layers of red tissue paper to the inside surfaces of the mouth.
  11. Cut a long tongue from cardboard and cover it with two layers of red tissue. Tape the flat end of the tongue to the inside of the mouth with the pointed end extending over the teeth.
  12. Cut long strips of gold tissue paper 4 and 8 inches wide. The wider strips are for the mane, the narrow for the snout and face.
  13. Fold strips in half horizontally, with colorful side out, and fringe the cut edge to make fur. To fringe, make cuts about 3/8 inches apart and extending up to an inch from the fold. Apply glue along the folded edge.
  14. Cover the snout with narrow strips, and use a narrow row around the bottom of the head and neck opening. Work from the bottom up, each row laps over about a third of the preceding row. When you near the top of the head, place the wide strips across the top with the mane “growing” toward the back.
  15. Place the mask on your head to determine the eye opening.  Mark the spots with a marker. Using typing paper cut big ovals for the eyes.  Cut four round pupils from black tissue paper and glue onto the mask using two layers for each eye.
  16. Add a curled paper ribbon mustache to two corners of upper snout.
  17. Additionally, you can sew two pieces of fabric ribbon to a blanket so you can wear the traditional dragon head and hide your body under the blanket. The ribbon will allow you to tie the blanket around your neck and make it is easier to take part in the traditional Chinese dragon dance.

Credit: Sally Riley in Williamsburg, VA.



About Heather Addis

Heather joined the Family and MWR Marketing team in 2009. As the Marketing Director, she dabbles in all things marketing - from campaigns to media purchasing to research and development. Heather is enjoying having a retired husband after 17 years of Army life, is a mother of five (one human and four dogs!) and is a pop culture junkie.

"I have the best job in the world. I get to do what I love while giving back to our men and women in uniform. I could not imagine having a job that did not allow me to have daily interaction with our Service Members. Being married to a retired Soldier, I am able to understand the hardships our military face and strive to help create programs and events to make their time at Fort Gordon memorable."

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