Monday, January 26, 2009
The sound of the drum and clashing cymbals from the distance have excited the children. With anticipation, they wait for the lion dance trouper to come to the house. We were fortunate it happen during my friend James open house visit. For many centuries, the lion dance is use to scare away the evil spirit and bad luck. In doing so wealth, health and prosperity will reside in the home. As a form of appreciation, we will hand the ang pow (money enclosed in small red envelope). There is no fix amount except when you request them for a special performance.
In good times , there will be up to 8 to 9 lion groups going round the town and housing area. This year I was informed that only 5 lion groups were making their rounds. This is one of the way the association, temples and even schools to raise fund. However it can be quite taxing if there are a lot of them going around. I remember when I was little, my dad would have set aside a certain number of ang pow to give away if the lion came to the house. If we ran out of it, we close the gate and pretended no one home.
As I began to do a little read up on the lion dance origin, I found out that the local Malaysian lion dance is following the southern Chinese tradition, The varying colour of the lion head an it's fur has different symbolic meaning to it. From my reading , the golden yellow represent liveliness, the red represents courage and green means friendship. This reminds me of a story.
A long time ago a strange creature appeared in China and horrified and ate men and animals. The fast and fierce creature was called 'nien' (or 'nian'), which sounds like the Chinese word for 'year'. Neither the fox nor the tiger could fight the 'nien' effectively and in despair the people asked the lion for help. The lion shook his mane, rushed towards the creature and wounded it. The nien hurried away with the tail between its legs. But it announced to return for taking revenge.A year later the nien did return. This time the lion couldn't help the people. He was too busy with guarding the emperor's gate. So the villagers decided to do the job themselves. Out of bamboo and cloth they produced an image of the lion. Two men crawled inside it and approached the nien. The 'lion' pranced and roared and the monster fled away again. This is the reason why on the eve of the Chinese New Year, lions always dance. They are frightening evil away for yet another year.