Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lion Dance

In the urban jungle, The Lion is dancing tonight.

The other day, I was visiting the Singapore 1:1 Island exhibition, on the urban future of Singapore, with some very exiting projects done, interesting projects in the doing and surprising projects in a close future to do (Marina Bay), when a very loud music was coming from the nearby Maxwell Food center. A yellow monster was dancing in front of a small red smoking temple.

When I heard cymbals, drums and see some sort of big head moving around, I though it was the Dragon Dance, but after some research I found out that actually it was the Lion dance. The Lion dance originated in China almost a thousand years ago, and could be categorized into two styles, the Northern style and Southern style.

The Northern dance was used as entertainment for the imperial court and is now mainly performed as entertainment (walking on a ball) for larger audience in circus, rather than the Southern dance is more symbolic.

The latest is usually performed as a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits, to summon luck and fortune, and symbolizes the myth of the Chinese New Year. Usually in pair, or within family Lion dance is a spectacle that no one will miss in the Chinese community.

During the dance performance, the two yellow Lions stopped in front of the small Buddhist temple and lied down for at least 5 minutes, giving from time to time mandarin‘s skin to close old men, a calendar and eventually through to the public some salad with its mouth, while some people on the side started to burn a lot of gift paper.

During the Chinese New Year, Lion visit the local business store to pick the greens ("choi chang"). Business people would want to have good luck tie a red envelope filled with money to a head of lettuce and hang it high above the front door. The lion approaches the lettuce, consume the lettuce and spit out the leaves but not the money.

At the end of the show, the 2 Lions unrevealed a drawing made of mandarins and pineapple. The lion dance is supposed to bring good luck and fortune to the business and the dancers receive the money as reward. The tradition becomes a mutual transaction.

Chinese New Year started already and will last for at least one more month.