The lion dance has been performed to the delight of may audiences since it began some 1500 years ago. It still plays an essential role in folk activities and celebrations. The lion is the most colorful representative of Chinese culture and the Chinese community, bringing peace, happiness and joy with its timely arrival. The lion appears at parades, hotel, restaurant and store openings, and also at weddings and private parties. The lion is an important part of many other special and festive occasions.
Lion heads are made of paper-mache and bamboo and vary in weight from the very light to somewhat heavy. Lion dancers work in teams of two. The front person handles the head and the back person is the tail. There is also a drummer, cymbalists, and a gong player. A large-headed Buddha also teases the lion with a fan. He represents a renegade monk who was too undisciplined to handle Shaolin temple training, and so, as legend has it, he was either cast out from the temple, or he simply ran away. Depending on the occasion, firecrackers may also be used to scare away evil spirits. Most often the lion dancers are gung-fu practitioners because of the difficult and strenuous moves required to make the lion come to life. Every move has a specific musical rhythm. The lion and its musical accompaniment are synchronized together throughout this elaborate routine. The lion dance may vary from improvisation to extreme choreography, depending on the occasion.
Generally, there are two types of Chinese lions: the Northern lion and the Southern lion. They move very differently. The Northern lion looks like a big, fluffy dog with yellow hair and a rigid wooden mouth and a body which the performers wear like a suit. The Southern lion comes in many colors: red, yellow, pink, black, green, silver, etc. and has a paper-mache mouth. Its cape is loosely draped across the body of the second performer who stays in the back. The Southern lion makes dramatic head movements to the sound of the loud music, while the Northern lion has prancing footwork. These, of course, are very broad generalizations. Our performances utilize the Southern style lions.
We can bring one, two, three, or five or more lions to an event if desired. We have many different colors and types of lions that we can bring to your event. If you opt to have a lion dance performance, hopefully, that will make your event more special and memorable to all in attendance. We bring a loud, strong performance with enthusiastic performers. Plus, we do our best to show up on time! Even early!
Dragons are also a very important part of Chinese culture. Like the lion, they bring happiness and good luck. The dragon is the most powerful of the Chinese astrological symbols. They are typically associated with Chinese New Year Parades and large festivals all over the world. The dragon requires a larger group of people to perform and the number may vary from seven people to a group as large as 150. The larger number would be required to maneuver the dragon in a big event such as San Francisco’s Chinese New Years Parade. The first person holds the dragon head and is followed by the rest of the body. It moves or flies in a serpent-like manner. Also, when the dragon comes out, it chases a large pearl.
The Jing Mo Athletic Association also offers Dragon Performances. We have a golden dragon that is very impressive when it comes out to rear it’s majestic head! Ours is a miniature“Gum Lung.” Although we say“miniature,” our dragon stretches out over 50 feet long and is really something to see! The dragon chases a symbolic pearl as it winds its way through your event. If you have a large festival or event, and would like a beautiful Chinese spectacle at your gathering, our dragon is definitely a crowd pleaser! We will try our best to accommodate your needs.
The first lion dance can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. 221 A.D.). The idea for calling the animal a“lion” probably originated from China’s commercial ties with Persia, which sent these animals as gifts to the emperor. It was said that the creature appeared at New Year and made a noise sounding like the Chinese word for“year.” The people made their own version of the animal to scare it away, and since that time, it has become the custom to send off the old year and welcome in the new year with the lion, accompanied by loud, percussive music. Today, the lion is used to scare evil spirits away and is now a quintessential part of a true Chinese celebration.
There are three main types of lions used and each represents one of the three sworn brothers written about in the Chinese classic,“The Three Kingdoms.” There is a famous story about how these three men swore loyalty and brotherhood to each other in a peach garden.
The first and oldest lion is the bright multi-colored lion, which has white hair, a yellow face, and a black or purple horn. This“auspicious” lion is refined and elegant and provides an air of dignity. He is modeled after the oldest brother, Lau Pei.
The second or red“awakened” lion puts on an awe-inspiring air with its black hair and red colored face. He is modeled after the second brother, General Kwan Kung, famous for his character traits of loyalty and righteousness.
The third is the black or“daring” lion which is modeled after Cheung Fei, the third of the three sworn brothers. This lion is also known as the“fighting” lion. The“auspicious” and“awakened” lions are usually used for festive occasions. For may years, these were the three most often used types of lions. Nowaday, it is not unusual to see lions of all different colors such as blue, green, pink, gold, etc. etc. Our studio has many different colors of lions available for performance.
At all times, the lion gives the impression of being alive by acting with caution, curiosity, joy and wonder.
The opening Ceremony starts with the lion greeting the patrons and dancing for the entertainment of the crowd. Because of all its playing and dancing, the lion will even lie down and rest, slowly going to sleep. The sleeping lion is very comical and popular as it slowly awakens and cleans itself. The lion then likes to have a snack and eats lettuce. This is the“Choy Cheng” part of the performance. Leaving food out for the lion is believed to be good luck. Sometimes the lettuce may be left on the ground for the lion to find, other times, it may be suspended from a long pole. The lion will then take the lettuce in its mouth to“eat” the lettuce. The lion will then throw it to the crowd to spread the prosperity. When all is done, the lion pays its respects by bowing three times to the assembled gathering.
A“Dai Tao Fut” or“big-headed Buddha” may also be part of the performance. The Buddha head acts as a guide to the lion, and will alternate between teasing the lion, waking the lion, or leading the lion in his bows. Of course, the lion follows the beat of the loud drum, the drumming beat varying with different parts of the ceremony.
The lion is the most colorful representative of Chinese culture and the Chinese community, bringing peace, happiness, and joy in its wake. It is one of the most celebrated symbols of joy in its wake. It is one of the most celebrated symbols of Chinese pageantry and is recognized throughout the world!
JING MO PERFORMANCES
Throughout the years, the Jing Mo Athletic Association has given may performances. Although each performance has many of the traditional elements of lion dance performance, we always strive to make each show a unique experience. We are a diverse group of performers with ages ranging from five years old and up.
We have had the pleasure of performing in the Chinese New Years Parade for the last 16 years and have been heavily involved in the San Francisco community. Each of our volunteer staff is a professional that has chosen to donate his or her time to promote martial arts and lion dance education as another avenue for personal development.
We have had the pleasure of performing a variety of shows from small business gatherings to large corporate functions. Some of the more recent performances have been at the Nordstrom in downtown SF, the Marriot Hotel, the Sheraton Hotel, the Westin St. Francis at Union Square, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) Convention in June 2000, the CRCD’s gala anniversary party, the San Bruno Chamber of Commerce’s International Day Festivities, and the San Mateo Public Libraries, to name but a few. We have also participated in community events for charity such as the fund raising for the Lady Shaw Senior Living Community in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
We also offer our services for private events such as red egg & ginger parties, wedding anniversaries, wedding banquets, birthdays, grand openings, and anything else of a festive and celebratory nature. Our prices vary depending on the number of lions and other considerations, such as your own needs and special requests. For large affairs attended to by over a hundred people, we recommend the DRAGON. We tailor our shows to your needs. We can add that special touch that just might make your function a most special and memorable occasion!
MARTIAL ARTS DEMONSTRATIONS
In addition to our lion dance performances, we can offer martial arts demonstrations if desired. We can provide hand sets, various Chinese weapons (the staff, engaging daggers, the sword, the saber, the spear, the fan etc. etc.) and two-person sparring sets, complete with energetic performers (hopefully, you’ll catch us on a good day!). The sets are exciting to watch and an interesting part of a complete performance.