A symbol of good luck
As little children, our parents would carry us on their shoulders within a crowd to watch lion dancing. How delighted we were then and today, the joy and excitement of performances never goes away regardless of how many one has seen.
When did this iconic cultural practice begin? Legend has it that an emperor of the Tang dynasty experienced a dream which began as a nightmare but ended with him being saved by a strange looking beast resembling a lion. Thus, the lion became a symbol of good luck for the Chinese and many believed that a dance can chase away evil spirits. It has remained a necessary ritual for business openings, important events and of course, the period of the Chinese New Year.
What is perhaps fascinating and distinctive about lion dancing are the many moves which resemble those in kung fu. The more difficult the movement to execute, the more applause is generated by crowds. An examination of Chinese history will reveal that during the Qing dynasty, lion dancing was associated with revolutionary martial artists of southern China who used it as a secret means of communication. The cry out from the dancer holding the head could be a secret code and even messages were passed along with the angpows and lettuces. Today, it is of course treasured as vigorous cardiovascular exercise, stance and weight training all rolled up in a cultural package.
The Grandmaster of the Hung Ga style of kung fu, Wong Fei Hung, who is portrayed in numerous martial arts movies including the popular Ip Man series, was an expert at lion dancing.
There are also different types of lions that represent a variety of attitudes and are designed for specific ceremonies. No performance is complete without the trademark live music courtesy of a large Chinese drum, several sets of cymbals and a heavy gong. Contrary to what one might think, the choreography of the dance does not follow the music and it is the other way around.
On the very first day of 2020, Malaysia’s premier shopping destination, Pavilion KL hosted the highly anticipated “World Dragon & Lion Dance Extravaganza — Malaysia Edition 2020”, one of the first events of a calendar-packed Visit Malaysia 2020.
The main entrance of the mall was packed with tourists, shoppers and 1200 dedicated members of various dragon and lion dance troupes from throughout Malaysia. Imagine the excitement of seeing 4 majestic dragons and 120 lions in a thrilling day-long series of performances. I had to jostle for a good view and thankfully the mall’s facade shielded me from the bright sunshine.
Present to officiate the launch was Guest of Honour, Tuan Haji Khalid Abdul Samad, Minister of Federal Territories; accompanied by Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan, Mayor of Kuala Lumpur; Datuk Joyce Yap, CEO of Retail, Pavilion KL; Datuk Philip Ho, CEO of Pavilion REIT and Datuk Maznah binti Abdul Jalil, Pavilion REIT Board of Director. The event was also attended by partners, tour and travel agencies as well as members of the media.
The VIPs took part in the traditional eye dotting ceremony of 10 colourful lions, bringing them to life and filling them with energy and liveliness to launch the auspicious event. To add to the festivities, the VIPs also tossed golden coins into the iconic Pavilion Crystal Fountain to symbolize luck, prosperity and good fortune.
Many visitors like me enjoyed seeing the Kids Lion Dance Championship featuring children aged two to twelve years old from 10 different troupes representing their respective primary schools. It was indeed most cute to observe a 6-year old manipulating a tiny lion head and finishing with the peeling of oranges.
Other performances included a special finale performance by 2019 Genting World Lion Dance Championship winner, Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Troupe.
Held for the third consecutive year at Pavilion KL, this is the first time the World Dragon & Lion Dance Extravaganza will feature a Cultural Exhibition at the Dining Loft, Level 7 to showcase the unique origins and history of this wonderful cultural heritage. The exhibition is open to the public until 9 February 2020.
With that, here’s to good luck and abundant fortune for everyone in the New Year~!