Types of lions
Northern and Southern lions differ somewhat is their attire
and behaviour. Both types of lions have heads that are made of paper
mache and bamboo. The bamboo frame is held together with twine or
The Northern lion resembles the animal itself. Its body is
covered with golden or red coloured hair, which covers the performers
fully. The movement of the Northern lion bears similar
characteristics as an actual lion.
The Southern lion, on the other hand, has a multi-coloured
head and long linen tail that drapes over the performer. The colour
of the lion is determined by which character it portrays from the
story of "3 Sworn Brothers", from the novel of the Three
Kingdoms. General Liu Bei, the first and oldest brother, is the most
auspicious, revered, and sincere. General Kwan Kung, the second
brother, is dignified, loyal, and courageous, while General Chang Fei
is the most ferocious and brave hearted, with a love for battle. A
lion that portrays General Liu Bei has a golden-yellow face, white
beard, and brightly coloured tail which usually combines yellow,
green, light blue, and bright red. A lion portraying General Kwan
Kung has a red face, black beard, and a red and black coloured tail.
The General Chang Fei lion has a green or black face with black
beard, and usually boasts a black and green, or black and white,
Amongst these variations, there are 2 styles of lion heads.
The one that has a curve shaped mouth and a large face is the
"Fut Shan" style lion head, while the one with a flat or
duckbill shaped mouth is the "Hok Shan" style lion head.
The Liu Bei lions are most often used for performances to bring
good luck and prosperity in various events, functions, new business
See some Lion
Flash needed. Broadband recommended.
Performing the lion dance
The lion dance is performed by 2 dancers: one dancer is
carries the lion head and the other dancer goes behind the head to
form the tail. The quality of the lion head performance entirely
depends on the skill of the dancer. The dancer under the head has to
manipulate strings and levers to blink the eyes, flutter the ears,
and open the mouth. The combination of these actions brings the lion
head to life. The movement of the head must be coordinated with the
footwork. Simultaneously, the dancer underneath the tail, whose back
is bent, has to coordinate his steps with those of the lion head
performer, and must flutter the body of the lion to add life. All
this footwork and movement must be done in correct rhythm to the
beats of the drum, gong, and cymbals. The lion dancers can display
different emotions of a lion: sleeping, waking up, scratching,
stretching, playing, eating, jumping, and resting. These movements
require a great deal of physical ability, balance, agility, and
stamina. In some schools, a teaser (dai to fut) is used to play with
the lion and takes the lion through its tricks. The tricks can vary
in difficulty. It can be as simple as roaming the streets, and as
challenging as picking the green or cheng from as high as the 2nd
floor of a building. 'Picking the Green' (choi cheng) is the climax
of any lion dance event. "Cheng" or "Green"
refers to a vegetable that is bound together with a piece of string
or cord to a red money envelope. To pick the Green dangling from the
2nd floor of a building requires a lot of skill. This is the time
when the skills and prowess of a kung fu school are tested. There are
occasions where the lion is presented with obstacles, like picking
the green out from water, or eating the green which may be surrounded
by snakes. The solution to these obstacles must follow the etiquette
and protocol of lion dancing. One must be knowledgeable to execute
the procedures and sequences.
Etiquette and Protocols of Lion
- The lion must perform three bows at the beginning and at
the end of each lion dance performance. Bowing is a sign of
- If the lion comes across an ancestral altar in any
occasion, the lion must perform three bows to salute the altar.
- Lions of different kung fu schools are considered as lions
from different clans, as in nature. On an occasion when a lion
encounters another face to face not in its clan, each lion must
lower their heads in order to avoid conflict between the schools.
Usually, the teacher (sifu) of each school will push each of their
lion heads down while walking past the other lion. Raising the lion
head in the presence of another lion from a different kung fu school
is considered to be a sign of disrespect to the other school.
- While roaming the streets, the drum must be sheltered from
enemies. Traditionally, the drummer carries a knife for protection.
- When the lion comes across a doorway, it must sniff the
doorframe to ensure that it is not a trap.
Dance Equipment in Toronto