The first batch of northern lions owned by the Singapore Chin Woo (Athletic) Association was destroyed in the war. It was brought to Singapore by Mr. Wei Yuan Feng when he returned to Hebei for vacation in 1934. Those first lions had heads made of yellow clay, with a cape of green hemp. Weighing 10 kg each, those lions were heavy and resulted in lion dance moves that looked clumsy, lacked agility and fell short of perfection. The lion dancers had to be strong and muscular to carry the weight and dance along with it. Even then, they could only manage very limited moves. As a result, the Northern Lion Dance was not popular in those days.
In 1945, Mr. Wei ordered a pair of lions from the Shanghai Chin Woo Association, which arrived in 1953. Those were extremely heavy, and it was difficult trying to manoeuvre them. After trying several times, we felt they were too uncomfortable to dance with and hence donated them to the Nanyang University as a historical exhibit.
Not to be discouraged, Mr. Wei then got together with Mr. Fang You Chang and teamed up to improve the northern lion. Instead of mud and sand, they constructed the lion’s head with bamboo strips. It was then adorned with golden paper and wool that had been dyed golden yellow while the lion cape was made of Luzon hemp dyed golden yellow. Continual refinements resulted in a lion head that weighed 3-3.5 kg, and a lion cape 2-2.5 kg. This vast improvement enabled us to portray an elegant Golden Lion.
In 1960, the Association established a Peking Opera Troupe and hired Mr. Liu Fu Shan as the instructor. In the hands of Mr. Liu, the techniques of the Golden Lion Dance were fused with the art of Peking Opera on stage. Since then, the Golden Lion Dance was integrated with gongs, drums, and the suona. In 1976, the image of our Golden Lion was even printed on the ten-dollar note issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Movements of the Golden Lion Dance
Lion dance moves are extremely vigorous. Lion dancers need to imitate the lion’s movements with ample physical strength and agility, such as scratching, stretching, yawning, fighting, lying down and sitting, etc.
In addition, the lion has to synchronise with the rhythm of the Peking Opera drum, expressing various emotions such as being stupefied, fearful, angry, roaring, intimate, or joyful. And then there is the lion’s interaction with the Chinese pugilist who taunts it with a Xiu Qiu (auspicious Chinese ball made of colourful ribbons), vividly drawing out its playful character.
Transfixed by the Xiu Qiu being manipulated in the expert hands of the pugilist, the lion would then go through all sorts of difficult motions while chasing the ball, such as mounting a high platform, moving across a suspended plank while standing on a huge ball, or jumping and standing on its hind legs.
Combine that with the impressive somersaults and agile manipulation of the Xiu Qiu by the pugilist and all this makes for the visual feast that our Northern Lion Dance has been known for.
8:00pm – 10:00pm
8:00pm – 10:00pm