Types of Southern Lion

The Southern Lion, also known as the Cantonese Lion, has more color variety and is not shaggy like the Northern/Golden Lion. There are two main subdivisions of the Southern Lion: The Hok-San Lion and the Fut-San Lion, named after two cities where paper modeling specialists developed these two principle styles of Southern Lions.

The Fut-San lion has a curved mouth, a pointed horn, and a long tail. The Hok-San Lion has a straight mouth, a curved horn, and a short tail. There are also Five different types of lions that symbolise different meanings and that fit specific lion dancing ceremonies:-

1. The seven-colour lion face has a yellow head, white eyebrows and beard. This lion is called "Liu Bei" lion, symbolising good fortune, friendliness, gentleness, and harmony.
2. The red face lion has a black beard and eyebrows, green nose and purple horns. It has a red, black, and green coat. Red face lion is known as "Kwan Gung" lion, or Awakened lion, symbolising energy, honour, and loyalty.
3. The black face lion has black eyebrows and a short beard. It has a green nose and horns covered with a black/white coat. Black face lion is called "Zhang Fei" lion, symbolising bravery, fierceness, hot temper, a lion likely to make trouble for a good cause. In the old days the meeting of two black lions from different kung-fu schools at a lion dancing often meant a fight between the two rival schools. However, today the black lion is a symbol of kung-fu's history.
4. The yellow face lion has a silver beard is known as "Huang Zhong" lion, symbolising experience and knowledge.
5. The green face lion, known as "Zhao Yun" lion, symbolises fighting.

Elements of Lion Dancing

The lion head is constructed of a framework of bamboo and wire, with brightly colored paper fleshing out its shape. Within the head are bamboo levers and pull-strings that allow the lead dancer who carries the lion head to manipulate the lion's mouth, eyes, and ears. A long sheet of bright, multi-colored cloth forms the body and tail of the lion.

Usually two dancers perform as the lion - one dancer carries the head, another becomes the lion's tail. The lion head is characterised by swift, lively movements, and often the lion head is raised high above the dancer. The footwork used by the lead dancer incorporates all of the various kung-fu stances and kicks. It is the dancer under the lion head who control the mouth, ear, and eye movements, establishing the lion's basic attitude.

Not only must the lion dancer under the head excel at kung fu, but he has to understand and imitate the lion's expression and habits. The idea is to make the paper-mache lion appear real.

But the dancer performing in the lion tail is equally important. He must duplicate the lead dancer's stances while remaining in an awkward, stooped posture and this dancer's vision is restricted. Both lion dancers must work especially on stance training to improve their strength: The heavy lion head requires a dancer with strong shoulders and arms; since the dancer in the lion tail is bent over all of the time, he must have a strong back and legs.

Lion Dancing's Role in Kung Fu HistoryTo perform Southern lion, one has to pay special attention to the waist, horse stance, leg kicking, and lively kung fu-style jumps. The lion dancers have to be highly skillful in their positioning, steps, and turnings. The dancers' legs and arms must be strong to withstand the rigorous steps and deep stances while supporting the heavy costume. Only the dancers with impeccable kung fu stances and power can put on the best performance.

By far, the most important role is the person who plays the Lion's head. He must be very versatile and very athletic. In order to play this position, the person must have the ability to be creative and make cat like movements with only the use of his lower body. His upper body duplicates the head movements, which leaves the hands and arms to control the eyes, mouth, ears, and facial expression.

The prestigious positions in a Lion Dance Troupes are either the Lion's head or the drum. The tail position is over looked by most people and is undoubtedly one of the most difficult roles to play. The person whom is the tail must make sure that he follows every step that the head makes every time and also follow the music. He is also required to be crouched over in an uncomfortable position in order to operate the tail.

The dancers have to be careful in following the many traditions and customs of lion dancing. Examples are when passing a Buddhist temple. The lion must stop and bow three times. On happy occasions, the lion must go into homes and congratulate the family. The lion must keep the drum quiet when passing by a funeral; when two lions meet, they must bow to each other then let each other pass. If a dragon and a lion meet, this means peace in the world, and the dragon and lion therefore dance to celebrate peace on earth.

"Choi-Cheng" (plucking or getting the green) is a special program of Southern lion dancing. The original meaning behind Choi-Cheng was to resist the Ching Dynasty and restore the Ming Dynasty. Nowadays, people use green lettuce with "hong bao" (lucky money in a red packet) in it to represent luck in making money. Choi-Cheng must be experienced in kung fu, good reflexes, and great knowledge. Types of Choi-Cheng include - high rise, bottom of a bridge, a crab, passing the poisonous snake, baqua, Three Star Surrounding Moon, Seven Star Surrounding Moon, etc. There are also different ways of playing the drum, each has its own style and characteristics.