The Chinese New Year Lion Dance

You may recall that I spent considerable time in Malaysia over the last few months. One of the events I was fortunate enough to see was the Chinese New Year. This year, 2013, is the Year of the Snake. While in Georgetown, Malaysia, before the PSY concert, a lion dance troupe visited the guesthouse I was staying at.

Some Background of the Lion Dance
During the lengthy Chinese New Year celebrations, home owners and shop owners in Asia invite a lion dance troupe into their homes to perform a good luck dance. The dance is called the “cai ching,” which means “the plucking of the greens,” since the lion will be offered some greens to eat. The lion dance, often confused with the dragon dance, consists of two performers who animate the lion costume from within. Beginning from the outside of the shop or home, the lion moves throughout the house dancing in unison with the accompanying musicians.

Part 1 – Entrance
The musicians start it off with their cymbals, gongs and a single drum as the lion prepares to enter the household. Wishing the home or shop owner well in the new year, the lion performs a short introductory dance in front of the shop or home.

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Part 2 – Inside the Main Area
The lion moves begins its trek throughout the house or shop.

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Part 3 – The Kitchen
Wishing a plentiful and healthy year for the owners, the lion moves into kitchen where it is “fed” some lettuce and oranges, both are viewed as auspicious fruits. The plate is put before the lion and the performers “eat” the food. In this clip you’ll get a better view of the musicians playing to the movements of the lion.

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Part 4 – A Return to the Main Area
The lion will move back into the main area to perform one of the last dances within the house. Here, he may be fed again with oranges and with a small, red envelope called “ang pow,” which is usually a monetary gift for the performers.

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Part 5 – Exit
Moving outside once again, the lion performs one last dance wishing the home or shop and its owners a healthy and prosperous new year.

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