Lion Dance

The Lion Dance Training

Chinese lion
Chinese Lion

The style of lion dance practised by the Singapore Nia Kwang Pugilistic Association Germany e.V. is the He Shan Lion (Heshan Shi). This folk art originated a long time ago in China when there was a war and eight countries were fighting for sole dominance. After the war ended, the Chinese created this lion dance to celebrate the victory over their enemies. It is also called the ''Shengli Shi'' or the Lion of Victory.

There are two dancers in the lion costume. Under the solid head, which is a bamboo mesh covered with paper, one dancer operates the eyes, ears and mouth. Under the body, which is made of strips of fabric and fur sewn together, the second dancer moves. Head and body are connected by ribbons. Every movement of the lion has a meaning. Different feelings are expressed differently in Kung Fu schools through step patterns and drum beats. The lion dance team also includes musicians who play drums, gongs and cymbals to match the dance.

These mostly quite acrobatic movements that are necessary for the lion to reach the sacred green require a high degree of body control and coordination of both partners, which is only possible through intensive training. Thus, before practising under the lion costume, the basic movements of the lion and the acrobatic jumps are practised first. A solid foundation in traditional kung fu is therefore obligatory to practice the lion dance.

Master Choo Chuan Chew and Dennis Seet
Master Choo Chuan Chew and Dennis Seet

The Laughing Buddha (Da Tou Fo) is also a very demanding role. The performer must be very athletic and able to perform acrobatic movements, jumps and kung fu techniques. The performer wears a mask, usually painted pink (white for the female counterpart). He also wears a robe and a fan made of palm leaves.

In traditional lion dance there are 3 different instruments, namely the drum, the cymbals and the gong. They support the movements of the lion and emphasise his emotions and feelings. Therefore, the instruments are rehearsed very precisely and accurately in special units.

The lion dance team of the Singapore Nia Kwang Pugilistic Association Germany e.V. has been practising traditional lion dance since 1991 and is one of the oldest teams in Europe. The team is led by the Singapore Nia Kwang Pugilistic Association, which is very famous throughout Southeast Asia for its dragon and lion dance. The head coach for lion dance at the Singapore Nia Kwang Pugilistic Association is Master Yu Tuck Seng. He has led his team to many victories and awards at national tournaments and is a recognised expert in traditional lion dance. Because of this, he has been invited abroad many times to teach foreign lion dance teams.

Master Choo Chuan Chew, a student of Master Yu Tuck Seng, is a dragon and lion dance trainer at the Singapore Nia Kwang Pugilistic Association. He is also responsible for looking after the foreign branches, including the Singapore Nia Kwang Pugilistic Association Germany e.V. in Siegen.

The Lion Dance Story

Lion Dance in Singapore
Lion Dance in Singapore

The lion dance is a traditional Chinese folk art. The origin of this form of expression in Chinese culture is so old that it is lost in the darkness of history. One legend goes back to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 906 AD). The emperor in office at the time dreamt one night of a strange animal that saved his life. The next morning, the emperor described this animal to his ministers, who concluded that it was a lion. And since this lion had saved the emperor's life, the lion quickly became a symbol of good luck throughout China. It was therefore believed that the lion dance would drive away evil spirits and powers. Even today, the myth persists that the lion brings luck and represents power.

The Chinese lion dance can basically be divided into 2 styles, northern and southern. The northern lion dance was practised for entertainment at the imperial court and originated in northern China. The northern lion is usually red, orange and yellow (sometimes with green fur for the female lions), has a hairy coat and a golden head. The northern lion dance includes many acrobatic elements.

The southern lion dance is more symbolic. It is usually performed to drive away evil spirits and to bring good luck and prosperity. The southern lion is very different from the northern lion and has a more abstract appearance with many variations and colours, all with different meanings. The head has large eyes, a mirror on the front of the head and a large horn in the middle of the head.

Canton is the region of origin of the Southern style, which in turn is divided into 5 sub-styles, namely Fo Shan/Fat San (Buddha Mountain), He Shan/Hok San (Crane Mountain), Fo He/Fat Hok (a mixture of Fo San and He San), Zhou Jia (mostly practiced only by Zhou Jia Quan Kung Fu schools) and the so-called green lion (Qing Shi - popular in the Fukien region and Taiwan).

While the Fo Shan lion looks very aggressive and has a very long coat, the He Shan lion looks a bit friendlier and has a much shorter coat. This allows it to perform more acrobatic elements such as jumping on the legs of the hind or even on benches.

Before a new lion can be used for practice or demonstration, it must first be brought to life. For this purpose, a special ceremony ("opening the eyes") is performed whereby the master of ceremonies awakens all parts of the lion's body. Once the lion is awakened, it must perform a certain form.

Lion Dance in Singapore
Lion Dance in Singapore

In order for the lion to bring luck and prosperity, he is given a task that he has to accomplish. At the beginning of the dance he sees the food/greens (greens, oranges etc.) and slowly and playfully approaches them. Emotions such as fear, fright, amazement, joy, sadness etc. are expressed. Once the lion has eaten the green, he realises that it is sacred, thus falling into a state of drunkenness until he finally spits out the food again. The task is made more difficult by various obstacles that the lion has to overcome on his way to the food. These can be, for example, poisonous animals (snake, centipede, scorpion) that block his way, word puzzles that the lion has to solve or mountains (represented by benches) and water that the lion has to cross. The way the lion gets to the green shows the skills of the lion dancers. However, certain rules and procedures must never be disregarded.

Another important aspect of the Southern Lion Dance is the laughing Buddha (Da Tou Fo). The Buddha is a Chinese monk. He plays with the lion, but sometimes also annoys him. He usually leads the lion to the green (Qing), which the lion wants to reach and eat. This symbolises good luck. The lion, depending on his mood, plays with the Buddha, but also chases and bites him.

Only tradition-conscious Kung Fu or Wushu schools cultivate the lion dance and perform it on important occasions such as New Year, business openings, weddings, religious festivals and ceremonies, state receptions, etc. This form of folk art is also recognised in most major cities around the globe.

The Lion Dance Family Tree

The Lion Dance Family Tree

This family tree has been compiled to the best of our knowledge and belief.

If any person has not been mentioned, please contact us!

Image gallery