History of the Troupe

Located in Daly City, California, the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe was formed in 1988 by a cadre of veteran lion dancers, of which, the troupe's leader and founder was Tony Shiu, who first started lion dancing in 1976. The founding of the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe occurred when Tony called upon his lion dance friends, who were no longer active dancers, to ask if they wanted to get back into lion dancing for the 1988 Chinese New Year's celebrations. They agreed and the group of friends performed as the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe from then on. The main goal of the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe is to pass on the traditional art of Chinese lion dancing, along with the culture and customs that makes up lion dancing

The West Coast Lion Dance Troupe has performed in the San Francisco Chinese New Year's (SFCNY) parade every year since 1988. In 1990, the troupe took the second place award in lion dancing at the SFCNY parade. Aside from SFCNY, the most anticipated event for the troupe dancers is the San Francisco Bay Area school performances during Chinese New Year.

More is lost with each generation, but for whatever the reasons may be, we must remember that the youth of today are going to be the adults of tomorrow. It is a duty of the lion dance troupe to keep this part of the Chinese culture alive so it will not be lost to the future. The main goal of the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe is to see that this particular tradition and subculture thrives, because if we do not, then who will? Lion dancing helps self-esteem and allows pride in heritage.

The current age range of the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe is 5 years old and up. Practice is held once a week on Sundays from 1-3 pm. With the number of active members in the troupe, the ratio of lion heads is about 2 to 1. The West Coast Lion Dance Troupe welcomes anyone who is interested in becoming a member.

The Story of Lion Dancing

By Sifu Kenneth Wong of Wei Mo Choy Lai Fut
Edited By Sifu Tony Shiu of the West Coast Lion Dance Troupe

Most cats are curious and playful, often causing a great deal of trouble for their mischievous activities. The great Lion who had originated in heaven, was no different. For years now, Lion had been causing a stir. Deities cam from all over the heavens to complain to the Jade Emperor who ruled over them. The Emperor, thinking to himself, "Lion is always gettin in trouble, always playing where he should not."

This wasn't the first time that Lion had been reported as insubordinate. As a matter of fact, the Jade Emperor could not himself remember the first defiant incident, and the Emperor knows everything. The Emperor started to shake his had and thought to himself, "This is going to be the last time I ever want to hear about Lion's insubordination". "Well, today Lion would not get away with it," promised the Emperor. "Today will mark the end of that menace." And with that, Look-Wong went and called Lion forth, chopped off Lion's head, and threw his remains out of Heaven and down to Eart to rot. "There," he thought, " this was the end of that." And it would have been, too, had not for Kwan'Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, who had been watching the whole preceding behind a silken cloud of mist. "Poor Lion," she thought, "doomed by his frisky nature. A bit playful, perhaps, but Lion had never did any real harm to anything or anybody." And with that, she flew from heaven, descending down to Earth to help the poor undone Lion.

After a long search, Kwan'Yin finally found Lion where he had landed with a thump, after falling to Earth. She tied his head back onto his body with and Enchanted Red Ribbon which she had brought down with her. "The ribbon," she told Lion, who was very please to have regained his head, "is enchanted. It will not only hold you together, but will also fright away evil spriits and will keep you safe from any harm." This made Lion very happy for he now knew that the power of the Enchated Red Ribbon would now keep him safe.

Of course Lion, himself, had his own method of frigheting away evil spsirts. He had a mirror ingrained in his forehead which reflect the devil's image back at him. Once the devil sees how ugly he truly is, he knew, therby, his sight is so bad it scares all of the evil spirits off. But the ribbon was much more powerful and with the two combined, no evil spirits could withstand the power that he is now blessed with.

Today, if you should look, you should notice and see that every Kung-Fu school's and Lion Dance Troupe's Lion Heads are equipped with a mirror on its forehead and a red ribbon tied around its horn. Practically every Kung-Fu school will have at least one LionHead, for it is the very heart and soul of the school. He is the flag and banner of the school, because in the old days, the Lion spoke of the school's martial arts ability. Schools would perform the Lion Dance at festivals to demonstarte how skillful their Kung-Fu abilities really are.

In ancient China, one Kung-Fu school might test the quality of another school by testing their Lion. This would be a polite form of a challenge. The school might, for instance, place the Lion's cheng at the top of a high pole or building and leave it up to the Lion to figure out how to get it down. If the Lion did not think that eh could do it, then he would have to pass it up. But this meant that his Kung-Fu skills were not sufficient to meet the problem that was set before the school. At the end, the Lion himself along with the school would lose face. But of course, the school who made the challenge would have to show that their Lion could get the cheng down in order to show that it could be done.

Lion Colors

The lion's colors are often taken from classic Chinese opera masks. The following are examples of the lion's colors and their meanings.

The seven colored face, white beard and brow with body having five colors. This lion is called Rui Shi or auspicious lion. It symbolizes wisdom, intellect and integrity as represented by historical figure, Liu Bei .

The red face, black beard and brow, green nose, red and black colored body called Xing Shi or awakening lion. It symbolizes bravery and loyalty and is represented by the god of war Guan Yu.
The black face, short black beard and brow with black and white colored body is called Dou Shi or fighting lion. It symbolizes youth and courage and is represented by historical figure Zhang Fei.
The yellow face with silvery white beard and brow is called Huang Zhong Lion which symbolizes righteousness.
The green face with iron-like horn and teeth with white beard and brow is called Zhao Yun Lion which symbolizes heroism.