Category Archives: Performances

Happy Year of the Monkey

Happy Year of the Fire Monkey everyone!

Remember last year when Annie brought her baby lion to La Joya for a parade through her school? Well, we didn’t eye-dot the lion before she brought it out and her cell phone took a huge blow to the concrete floor rendering it useless. Whether or not it was bad luck caused by the unblessed lion we will never know! But this year, we decided to perform a makeshift Hoi Gwong ceremony for her lion before the parade in case it decided to curse her cell phone again. Since Hoi Gwong ceremonies take quite a bit of effort, we decided to eye-dot my baby lion too. This way, she can bring two lions to her classroom for more fun! But before that could happen, we needed to sew a new tail for my baby lion.

Let’s rewind about a decade to hear the story about my baby lion.

How my baby lion originally looked

I got this lion when I was nine years old during my first trip to China. It was my first lion head ever and I took great care of it, but after a few years it started chipping. When I was fifteen years old, I decided my first ever lion project would be to repaint this baby lion to an orange color. Of course, the original tail didn’t match the new paint job, but I didn’t know how to sew a new one. After I finished painting it, the lion was mostly hidden away unused in a plastic bag.

New orange and gold design

Side view

Fast forward to now, Annie knows how to sew! So we set out to sew an orange lion tail to match the orange paint job before we would bless both baby lions at the same time. Actually, she did most of the work (probably more like all of the work haha) since I have no clue about sewing! The whole project took about ten hours. Thank you Annie for all the hard work!

Planning and cutting the tail pieces

She started sew the fur with the machine, but it was difficult. After many attempts, she ended up sewing it by hand, which was also less difficult.

Sewing the fur on

Annie sewing the tail together

Complete!

We attached the tail to the lion with small Velcro dots and tied the corners to the handlebars with ribbon.

Tail attached to the lion

The hardest part of sewing the lion tail

Cutest part of the lion

After the tail project, it was time to get both lions ready for the Hoi Gwong ceremony! I made my own red flower ribbons using red ribbon and rhinestones. I also attached a pink flower to the back of the whole thing to hide the glue.

Front of the flower ribbon

Back of the flower ribbon

Light three incense to initiate the ceremony.

Yes, that is an old sauce jar  LOL

Ready for the Hoi Gwong ceremony!

One dot on the mirror, the lion awakens

Two dots left then right, distinguish wrong from right


 

Two dots on the nose, the senses open

One dot in the mouth, all senses unite

From tip to tail, all becomes one

Ready for blessings

Time for both lions to parade and bless the school!

Preparing for the parade

Parading around the school

Parading around the school

When doing things the first time, there are always improvements that can be made. The tail was falling apart after only one use!

Edges fraying

Ribbons torn out from the rest of the tail

Fortunately, Annie fixed it by using a zigzag stitch keep the raw edge of the fabric from fraying. She took a lot of the tail apart and had to re-sew it. She also sewed the ribbons back on in a different way to make it more secure.

Sealing up the edges

Woot woot! Back to the closet until next year!

 


Chinese New Year Parade at La Joya Elementary School

Today, we have a guest blogger – Annie, a kindergarten teacher from La Joya Elementary School. You may recognize her name because her baby lion head was featured on this blog in 2013. This past Chinese New Year, she put the lion head in action! Enjoy the read!

“Last week, the kindergarten classes at our school had our Chinese New Year parade through the school. We had read some stories to learn about Chinese culture and the significance of Chinese New Year during the days leading up to the event. I brought in the lion head from my childhood (featured on this blog before!). We also borrowed some of Ryan’s child-size instruments for the parade. We had the kids decorate some red butcher paper to look like a dragon tail and we took out some other instruments to make some noise in the halls.

We had two separate parades with two classes. Some of the upper grades came out to watch us as we marched around the track. We also went through the office and through the halls with the afternoon group.

First group’s parade

First group’s dragon tail on the track

Lion leading the way

Second group’s parade

Second group’s lion leading the way

The kindergartners and other classes really enjoyed the parade! Although some aspects of our parade were nontraditional, I was glad I could share Chinese culture to my students.”

P.S. Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates.


114th Golden Dragon Parade – Los Angeles Chinatown

I haven’t performed lion dance for quite a while already, but decided to join the Immortals as they took part in the 114th Golden Dragon Parade on Saturday. It’s quite amazing to know that this annual parade started before the 1900’s!

In the past, I’ve lion danced for the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade three times and had quite a bit of fun. But for the Golden Dragon Parade, I had one complaint – the searing heat dehydrated me very quickly! The SF parade happens at night when it’s the coolest, while the LA one happens during the daytime when it’s the hottest. Either way, it was still fun!

My friend picked me up early in the morning to head to the Immortals “headquarters”, where a big Budget truck was waiting with all the parade equipment inside. After most of the people arrived, we started heading to the parade location.  I immediately felt the heat when I walked outside!

Lots of people started showing up. I think there were at least 100 people there to help out with the parade! Even UCLA ACA showed up to help out.

Look at all those people!

UCLA ACA Lion Dance

Unloading and assembling the equipment probably took over an hour. Lions, dragons, banners, flags, lanterns, everything!

Lions waiting for the parade

One of the dragons for the parade

The dragon was the longest I’ve ever seen. I think something like 20 or more people were needed to walk the dragon through the parade.

Look at the length of that thing!

Before the actual parade though, there was an opening performance at the carnival nearby.

Getting ready for the opening carnival performance

 

There, I even got to take a picture with someone famous! Anyone recognize him? He’s an older member of the Immortals.

Al Leong!

After the carnival performance, we ate some food and waited for the actual parade to start. Some of the younger performers warmed up the instruments with some energetic music.

Warming up the instruments

We started walking to where the parade starts.

Waiting at the start of the parade

 

So many flags and banners!

And so the parade started. Two miles of walking and lion dancing in the searing heat drained me pretty quickly. While going through the parade, there was this historical society that set up lettuce and red envelopes for the lions. All the lions quickly gathered around and gave a mini-show right on the spot!

Mini show for the historical society

The parade ended soon after that, but that wasn’t it! We went around several shops in Chinatown to help bless their businesses. After that, we took a break at the Immortals headquarters before heading to two more shows. The two shows were actually around the same time, so the teams were split into two groups. I followed the group that performed for a high school reunion at the Hilton Hotel. The hotel was in a plaza, so the teams blessed some businesses before the show started.

After the performances, the team went to eat a pretty grand dinner. Too bad I forgot to take some pictures! I was actually dead tired and couldn’t eat much. At that point, I just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep.

And to end it, let me show you the battle scars! The top blister was from drumming and the bottom blister was from lion dancing. It’s actually not bad at all. I’ve seen a lot worse! I remember seeing someone with an entire finger’s worth of skin scraped off after the parade.

Battle scars for the day

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!


Commentary – KTSF 26 Golden Gate Fields – Lion Dance Competition

So Alex decided not to post up the videos he filmed during the competition because there are better ones that are already on Youtube. He was filming from a bad angle and also missed the first half of Yau Kung Moon’s performance to get his $1 hot dogs. Haha 😛

He might make a video montage when he has free time, but in the meantime, I’ll embed other people’s videos here and give some commentary.

First up is Yau Kung Moon of San Francisco, which competed with a Hok San style routine, utilizing a set of high benches. I’ve actually never seen benches built like that, so they’re pretty unique to me. Their drumming was a pretty standard Malaysian Hok San beat.


Video courtesy of ykmsf.

A few observations:

  1. Notice the appearance of a gradual slope from the head to tail, presenting the neck of the lion. I discussed this in The Lion Horse.
  2. The lion movements are relatively gentle and soft compared to traditional Fut San lion dancing. This a characteristic of Hok San lion dancing.
  3. Many Malaysian Hok San lion heads use a full length ram fur on both the top and bottom eyelids. This lion only uses full length ram fur on the top eyelid. Instead of full length ram fur, I’m guessing either thick rabbit fur or trimmed ram fur was used for the bottom eyelid. I don’t see many of those lions around, but it’s a nice change from the typical Malaysian Hok San lions seen everywhere.

The next performance was by Hung Sing Goon of San Francisco. They competed with a somewhat hybrid style routine, utilizing a red wooden wash basin. Their drumming was a unique Fut San beat.


Video courtesy of Dj2FrEsHz.

A few observations:

  1. Although they’re dancing a Fut San lion head and using a Fut San drumbeat, you can clearly see some Hok San flavor in the lion’s movements. These are the gentle and soft movements that I mentioned above. They’ve also incorporated some strong, snappy lion movements characteristic of Fut San lion dancing.
  2. Throughout the routine, there were some parts with some pretty realistic animalistic emotions and expressions.
  3. Standing on the brim of that basin is a lot harder than it looks.

The last performance was by Rising Phoenix of San Jose. They competed with a hybrid style routine, utilizing a wine jug prop.  Their drumming seems to be Hok San based with some Fut San influences.


Video courtesy of haisan408.

A few observations:

  1. Their lion head is practically identical to Hung Sing Goon’s lion. The only differences that I spotted were the pompom colors, nose color, and some of the paint colors.
  2. The routine was relatively fast-paced compared to the other two teams’ routines.
  3. You can clearly tell that they put a lot of attention and focus on the lion’s expressions and emotions. The portrayal of being drunk was spot-on.

Overall, I enjoyed watching all three performances. I wish I was there in person! Maybe one day, far in the future, we’ll be able to pull a team together and compete! But thinking about that will be saved for another time…


KTSF 26 Golden Gate Fields – Lion Dance Competition

So Ryan tells me about this lion dance competition going on in the Bay area a couple days ago. Now, you know I haven’t practiced lion dancing or wushu for a long time now. Was planning on just catching up on work today, but Ryan convinced me to go check it.

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The event was presented by KTSF26 (a local television station with Chinese programming) and Golden Gate Fields (a horse racing track in Berkeley). This lion dance competition included three lion dance teams from around the Bay: Yau Kung Moon, Hung Sing, and Rising Phoenix.

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Yau Kung Moon started the competition using a beautiful silver, lime green highlight, white fur lion. Their performance apparatus was a pair of high benches and a pot.
Yau Kung Moon Lion Dance

Next up was Hung Sing, with a black, gold highlight, red fur lion. Their performance apparatus was a large bucket.
Hung Sing Ling Dance

Last up was Rising Phoenix, with what seemed to be an identical looking lion as Hung Sing. They are infact two separate lions, but with a very similar look. Details on the head separate them apart. Their performance apparatus was a large bottle, in which they used to do a drunken lion act.
Rising Phoenix Lion Dance

There were plenty of kids in attendance for the lion dancing and other crafts. There were painters available to hand paint and write calligraphy on fans, animal balloons being made for kids, as well as other dance and Chinese musical performances. Since this was $1 day at Golden Gate Fields, I imagine there were people here for the horse racing and cheap food and drinks as well. And hearing the beating of the drum gathered a decent size crowd. Being the fatty that I am, I was enticed to get a couple of the dollar hot dogs. 🙂

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As for the competition, the results are as follows:

  1. First Place: Yau Kung Moon P1170021
  2. Second Place: Rising Phoenix P1170020
  3. Third Place: Hung Sing P1170018

To view entire photo gallery for this event, check out the Photos page.

KTSF26 Golden Gate Fields Lion Dance Competition

This was a lion dance competition between three Bay Area lion dance teams. Presented by KTSF26 and Golden Gate Fields. Teams competing include: Yau Kung Moon, Hung Sing, and Rising Phoenix

43 Photos

Video clips of the performances to come, so stay tuned! 🙂


Portraying a Lion’s Age

The concept of portraying a lion’s age was first mentioned to me several years ago. At the time, it didn’t appeal to me greatly, so I just hid the concept in the back of my head. But after the Hoi Gong ceremony for Chris Low’s newly restored lion, the concept suddenly sparked into my mind again as I watched Yogi Tam, Vincent Chan, and a younger member playing with the lion head. If incorporated correctly and creatively, portraying a lion’s age would be an impressive aspect of a performance.

We all know that our hair turns white as we grow older. The concept of a lion’s age is based off of this – a black-haired lion is young, while a white-haired lion is old. Notice that I said hair, not fur. In my opinion, lion heads with ram fur or other types of fluffy fur all look about the same age. On the other hand, white-bristle haired lions tend to look older then black-bristle haired lions. With that said, it would be proper for a black-haired lion head to be portrayed as young and energetic, while a white-haired lion should be portrayed as wise and civilized.

A black-haired lion’s movements should be fast, powerful, energetic, “wild”, snappy, etc. The video below shows these descriptions. The first person (up to 7 seconds) is a younger member of The Immortals team, while the second person is Vincent Chan.


A white-haired lion’s movements should be more refined, classy, well-mannered, etc. The video below shows these descriptions. Yogi Tam is dancing the lion for the duration of the video.


It’s interesting how a person’s age may play a role in the age of the lion. Notice that the younger member’s style is the most “wild” out of the three, while Vincent and Yogi’s styles are far more refined and controlled.

Since lion dancing is a form of storytelling, the appearance of both a black-haired lion and a white-haired lion in a performance would be greatly enhanced with the additional detail in portraying the lion’s age. If incorporated well, the full story can be told with a new dimension.


Chris Low

Many lion dancers from the late ‘90s to about ’05 have probably heard of his name. He is the youthful,  paparazzi-chased, and handsome creator of probably the largest lion dance resource website on the internet – Lions Cave

Around the time when I first started lion dancing, I came across the Lions Cave website while surfing the internet. I couldn’t believe it; there was so much information about lion dancing that I’ve never known. At the time, the internet wasn’t as well developed as it is now. Communication between large numbers of people occurred through mailing lists that worked using email addresses. I still remember the ecstatic feeling running through me when a new response from the mailing list arrived to my email inbox.  Oh, the memories…

I’ve always known of Chris, but haven’t met him in person until this past Saturday. We’re usually at different parts of California, so it wasn’t likely that I would magically bump into him. But after confirming my acceptance letter to UCLA last year, I realized it was finally possible to meet him in person. After all, who wouldn’t want to know a stud like him?

Last year, he took on a restoration project of an old Luo An style lion head. I was excited when I heard about this project because Luo An style lion heads were some of the most beautifully crafted pieces of art from Hong Kong. After one long year of hard work, he finished the project just in time for the New Year.

Chris invited me to the Hoi Gong ceremony for his newly finished project. This was my chance to meet the celebrity! Anyway, the lion was dotted at one of the Immortal’s performances. It was danced by two of the younger team members, and the honor of dotting was done by Marty Chiu, the original donator of the lion.

I arrived at the location about the same time that Chris did. As I walked toward him with excitement, I saw the expression that he recognized me! After the handshakes and small talk, he went to set up the performance. The Hoi Gong ceremony was nice and simple – red paint substitutes the cinnabar/chicken blood, artificial green onions and golden flowers adorn the horn, and the red ribbon ties it all together around the horn. Unfortunately, the ribbon wasn’t tight enough and the adornments weren’t affixed well. Many of the attached items came loose immediately after the lion awakened. The show still went on though! After the lion cleaned itself, it ate its first meal consisting of lettuce and a red envelope. The ceremony ended with the new lion greeting some older lions from the Immortals.

Dotting the Ear

It has awaken!

Greeting of the Lions

I’m glad I was there to witness the whole ceremony. Well done on the lion, Chris!

A brilliant idea for two toned fur outline of the mirror.

A side view.

Yogi posing with the lion.


Kids Love Lions

One of the main purposes of the lion dance is to scare off evil and bring good luck.  Particularly in southern style lions, this symbolism is exhibited in ornaments such as the mirror on the lion’s forehead, used to scare evil spirits with their reflection.

To those that have never seen a lion dance lion before, they might imagine images of scary and fierce looking creatures.  Although this is certainly true with some lion styles and colors schemes, a growing trend in playful and cute looking lions have dominated the lion dance performance scene due to their crowd pleasing appearance.  These bright colored, furry lions are particularly adored by kids.  What kid wouldn’t love a huge, colorful, soft fur, animated lion? They look like giant sized stuff animals that move!

I think performing for an audience with kids is a lot more fun because you can see just how much kids enjoy watching the lion.  Their eyes open wide in amazement at the mystical looking lion and laughter ensues when the lion does playful movements.  Kids have an easier ability to just see the lion as a lion, instead of two people underneath a costume.  Therefore, if performed well, kids will forget about the people underneath… as the lion comes to life.

As part of the World Brooklyn exhibit at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, kids get an inside-the-head look at what it’s like to be a lion dancer.

Here are some fun photos taken by my cousin at the exhibit.

The excitement of kids when they see a lion dance brings a lot of satisfaction to lion dancers alike.  You’re certainly there to lift their spirits and bring a smile to their faces.  Their slight hesitation and fascination, when they try to feed a red envelope into the lion’s mouth is an experience that they will not forget.  This moment, from within the lion’s head, is equally memorable. 🙂


Stuffing Things Down My Shirt

If memory serves me right, the following is a list of items that I’ve stuffed down my shirt in the past couple years during lion dance performances.  These props are part of puzzles that the lion has to solve/interact with.  And if you’re dancing the lion, there’s no place to store stuff except down your shirt, in your mouth, in your hand, tucked into belts, etc.

The following are items that have actually went down my shirt though… 😛

  1. Many oranges
  2. Many tangerines
  3. Pomelo
  4. Gourd
  5. Acupuncture needles
  6. Red envelopes filled with money
  7. Loose bills
  8. Red envelopes filled with tea leaves
  9. Sewing needle (in pouch)
  10. Metal chisel
  11. Small metal sharpening block
  12. Book