When my kids returned from school with a note inviting parents to the Chung Ching Middle School Lion ‘Eye Opening Ceremony’ my knee jerk reaction was to leave my camera at home (this time). The days leading up to the event had been a tiring week so naturally the thought of lugging a DSLR wasn’t all that exciting. However, no matter how much I resisted, I know there are few things at this event that I find particularly interesting — the attention to details that people would not normally have paid much attention to. Having done this twice prior, the element of fire has been the one thing that piqued my interest. If you have seen pictures from last year’s set you would be hard pressed to find much difference between the two occasions.
2008 is the Year of the Rat and while the Chinese calendar consists of 12 animal signs in rotation, the Lion remains the central and most symbolic icon of the Chinese calendar and the Lion Dance is usually performed traditionally as a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The lion, as you’ll have also noticed, is traditionally regarded as a guardian creature and this tradition of the lion dance has carried on for centuries with different countries adopting different styles.
Last night, at the Chung Ching Middle School in Seria, this tradition is celebrated year after year drawing large crowds of people including fellow blogger Jewelle to witness the official “awakening” ceremony of the new lions. This year I thought it would be interesting to bring up-close images of this tradition to my readers as I understand in the olden days, many were forbidden to look at this part of the ceremony especially the part when blood is brushed on to the lion’s eyes. It may have been that in the past, blood from a chicken was used during the ceremony whereas a red dye symbolising blood is used nowadays.
Beyond tradition, lion dance performances have become somewhat of a entertainment universally appreciated by many around the world. As a kid, I remembered just how vibrant the town of Kuala Belait used to be when there was no restriction on how and where lion dance performances were held—one moment they were on stilts high above ground attempting to reach for the abundance of cash while another lion on the ground attempts to carve a pamelo. The whole time noises from long strings of fire crackers added to the festive mood.
This picture was shot last year at the Hua Ho residence after the performance was over and one Chinese newspaper journalist crept up from behind me to photograph me shooting this picture—clearly one of those light hearted moments during CNY!
I’d like to end with this personal observation. In recent years, that festive mood have somewhat diminished and the town where majority of business predominantly being Chinese has gone quiet and peaceful, quite the contrast to see a culture rich in colours and vibrancy have all but disappeared. To be able to capture these images of what’s left to be appreciated however short the moments has become a privilege. Oh how times have changed!