Toronto Hong Luck Kung Fu and Lion Dance and Dragon Dance
Toronto Chinese Lion Dance

Chinese Lion Dance History

The lion dance is a long-standing Chinese tradition. Even today, the lion dance endures as an ever-celebrated facet of Chinese culture.

At Hong Luck Kung Fu Club, we continue to advance this tradition by sharing it with those who are interested in its beauty and athleticism.

The lion represents the "spirit" of a martial arts school. Traditionally, the lion was used to frighten demons from local businesses and communities, and help bring good fortune to all. Today, the tradition endures by commemorating a host of festivals and opening ceremonies.

The colours of lions vary, and they may follow those attributed to the Chinese god Kwan Kung and his brothers Chang and Liu.

In terms of athleticism, lion dance routines are dynamic and acrobatic. The physical and mental demands of high-level routines are so great that there are now lion dance competitions held annually throughout the world!

See some Lion Dance Pictures.
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History and Origins of Lion Dance

During the long revolutionary resistance against the Ch'ing government, the martial arts community often used their lion dance to communicate with the other Chinese patriots.

Although no real lions ever existed in China, lions and the tradition of lion dance have existed in Chinese culture and history for thousands of years. Chinese lions bear very little resemblance to real lions, however, they play an important role in Chinese folklore. Lions are portrayed as peaceful creatures that are considered divine animals of nobility and dignity. They symbolize strength, courage and wisdom.

In absence of records, there are several versions of the history and origin of the lion dance.

A popular belief is that the lion dance finds its roots in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906). Legend has it that the emperor had a strange dream one night. In his dream, an odd creature he had never laid eyes upon before saved his life and carried him to safety. The next day, wondering what this creature was and what the dream meant, the emperor described his reverie to his ministers. One of the ministers explained that the strange creature resembled an animal called a "lion", which did not exist in China at the time. The emperor, wanting to see this "lion" while awake, ordered them to create a model of it, and because of his dream, the lion came to symbolize good luck, happiness, and prosperity.

Another account tells of a lion frequently terrorising a small village in China. In order to stop the attacks of the beast, all the villagers banded together and beat their pots and pans to make a racket that could drive away the lion. It is said some even put on costumes that resembled the lion. Other versions of this account tell of the villagers consulting a Buddhist monk for protection. The monk eventually tamed the lion, which in turn became the protector of the people. This monk is often represented as a big - headed Buddha (dai to fut), as seen in most southern lion dances.

Probably, the most credible version of the origin of the lion dance is this. of a mythical lion originating in heaven was reborn. Being very mischievous and having a fondness for practical jokes, he created a great deal of trouble for everyone. On one occasion, he decided to play a practical joke on the Jade Emperor. Angered at the trouble the lion caused, the Jade Emperor killed the lion by cutting the lion's head off and separating it from its body. He then threw both the head and the body of the lion down to the earth to rot. Upon discovering the fate of the lion, Kwan Yin (the goddess of mercy) felt sorry for the lion and decided to help him. Using a long red ribbon, she tied the lions head back on and brought him back to life. This red ribbon is still seen today, and is said to have the ability to ward off the evil spirits. Kwan Yin also adorned the lion with a horn and mirror to drive away evil spirits.

Hoi Gong (Eye dotting) ceremony

Hence, every new lion head must be blessed by a ceremonial awakening of the lion. This ceremony is known as "Hoi Gong", or the "Eye Opening/Dotting". Traditionally, a new lion should not be used if it has not experienced Hoi Gong. This ceremony involves painting the eyes of the lion before the start of the lion dance in order to awaken its spirit. Through this, the lion is given birth into the world. It is believed that any lion used at any kind of event without being blessed or awakened will bring misfortune and bad luck.

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