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Monday, February 8, 2016

Secrets of Lion Dancing - An Insider Look

Every year during this time, if you live near a Chinatown or in Hong Kong, you'll hear the familiar sounds found in this video.

I present: Lion Dancing (舞狮 - wushi). Although it seems like fun and games, the first hand account from a veteran of such lion dance shows was quite different. From the gang land roots to the modern day evolution, this is a side that most people never get to see nor hear about it.

Here it is, raw and unedited (source anonymous):

"i remember for years my parents didn't want me to go out to ctown during the chinese new year parade... one year i found out why...
when my uncle took me to watch all the lion dancing and the fireworks i thought this was great... everyone coming out to celebrate... it was exciting, until... two groups crossed paths, it's customary to keep the heads low when meeting another group, when you raise the heads it means you want to fight... well apparently someone didn't tell the dude underneath the yellow lion, cause the dude under the black lion went over and gave him a kick in the chest... next thing you konw all hell breaks lose... massive fight.... both groups go at it using everyting from the flags, cymbals and drum sticks as weapons... the drumer even kicked over the drum to reveal a bin of knives and machetes underneath...

this was back in the day where gangs ruled ctown... where you couldn't walk down certain streets otherwise you would get beat up or robbed... if you were from a different gang or group you know better than to cross into the next territory, and they knew also... it was an unspoken underground etiquette. when gangs ruled ctown, they had a designated area, which they went to stores asking for money... each group would stay in their area and you knew better than to go into an opposing group's turf... things are different now... cops aren't as tolerate... now each group needs to petition for a permit in order to go out on chinese new year, you then get a police escort and a desginated route... and under no circumstances should you be deviating from this mapped route. so many rules you need to follow. but groups are more friendlier, greetings and smiles are exchanged rather than dirty looks and stare downs...

but there is still an animosity towards groups outside of ctown who come just to advertise and try to take money out of the community. groups from outside of the ctown like queens and staten island come out trying to attract new members or collect extra money... these groups aren't frowned upon, but nothing really happens... if an opposing group was rude or holding a threaten posture you would jsut cry to the 5-O and they would lose their permit for the following year, cuase they were black listed from receiving a permit next year...

nowadays... most of the trouble is caused by the younger generation who are over cocky and protective over their groups name and reputation. like asian fraternities they go harass and beat up other group's members or trash their house. but it's nothing like back in the days"

So if you don't know, now you know.

If you want to learn more about the history and traditions of Lion Dancing, check out Wikipedia's entry and also visit

Feel free to leave comments about your own experiences with lion dancing!

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