But first, here are some facts and information you should know about the lion dance!
The lion dance performed at our club stems from our Hong Kong Dragon Style Kung Fu lineage. We perform the tradtional lion dance and drumming, favouring traditional floor routines and demonstrating our kung fu stances and power with Futsan lions (curved mouths), as opposed to Hoksan lions (duck bill shape). Our club is one of the few authentic schools of Hong Kong Futsan lion dance and drumming in Sydney, and we have performed at Chinese New Year festivals, shopping centres, weddings, private bookings and Grand Openings.
The origins of the lion dance has many colourful stories, one of which is the tale of the Nian.
According to Chinese folklore, the Nian was a beast which appeared every New Year and terrorised the local villagers. After awhile, the villagers discovered the Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises. They dressed up in a similar costume, banged pots and pans and lit firecrackers to scare the Nian away, after which it never reappeared. Thus began the history of the lion dance during Chinese New Year, where the lions scare away bad luck, firecrackers are lit and a joyous celebration is held by the community!
Ever wondered why the lion eats a lettuce and spits it back out? The lion dance is always centred around a 'Choy Chang' (plucking the green) which is represented by the lettuce and embodies the spreading of good luck and wealth. There are a number of ways a lion can play the Choy Chang, depending on whether it's hung up high or low, or part of a floor puzzle routine. Traditionally lion dance troupes were faced with a challenging Choy Chang to test their skills - usually a high Chang to force shoulder jumps, which has now become the norm.
There were also 3 original coloured lions, stemming from the Chinese Classical novel 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms'. Based off 3 sworn blood brothers, each lion represented an established or new school and were danced according to the character of the lions. These are:
Liu Bei - Rainbow lion, white beard. Eldest brother. Usually reserved for a revered Master. Wise and calm.
Guan Gung - Red and black beard lion. Middle brother. The most commonly used lion for kung fu schools. Honourable and loyal, danced with strength and power.
Zhang Fei - Black and white, black beard lion. Youngest brother. Brash and wild, this lion was used for new schools and would be danced with aggression and quickness.
There are now many other coloured lions used instead of the traditional three, including popular red and gold or white, yellow, orange and silver lions, all depending on the client's taste and occasion.
Other common unknown symbolisms within a lion dance routine, include oranges and mandarins representing wealth, lions bowing and sweeping their beards low on the ground to get rid of bad luck, and the popular Eye Dotting ceremonies to awaken new lions.
In addition to the story of the Nian, another tale of the lion dance which leads into why there is an Eye Dotting ceremony is that of the lion being a heavenly creature, who was banished from the heavens for being a mischievious trickster (not unlike Loki from Norse mythology). The lion's horn was cut from the top of its head and thrown to earth as punishment for his antics. The story is told of the Goddess of Mercy Gwan Yin taking pity on the poor lion, and tying a red ribbon around the horn back onto its head to give it life again. Thus the symbolism of an Eye Dotting ceremony to awaken new lions, where a red ribbon is tied around its horns, eyes, nose, mouth, ears and tails dotted to return its senses.
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