Awakening Lion


History San José

History San José

The dance of the lion is most loved by the Chinese. It is performed at Chinese New Year and other festive ocasions. Amidst the heavy beat of gongs and drums and the noise of firecrackers, the lion prances in pursuit of the "flaming pearl," while scaring away evil spirits. Displaying remarkable acrobatics with eyeballs rolling, tongue flapping, jaws clacking and bells tinkling, this two-person dance is perpetuated today in the martial arts schools. The only way to "pacify" the playful lion is to give it "Lay See," red packets of money. In return the lion brings good luck to all who watch him dance. This good luck lion is made of papier mache on a bamboo frame and is typical of the type used in San José. The black paint on the lion's crest indicates that this is a fighting lion. The aqua color decorations are Kingfisher feathers which are a rarity and highly valued. This "good luck" lion was made for an association of fabric merchants (Fook See Chow Cha) by the firm of Yuet Shi Cheong in Fat Shen, a city 30 miles northwest of Canton. It was probably made in the 1930s. On display at the Chinese American Historical Museum at the Ng Shing Gung, History Park.

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  • Title: Awakening Lion
  • Date: 1930/1940
  • Location: San Jose (Calif.)
  • Physical Dimensions: Papier mache, bamboo, feathers
  • Provenance: Gift of Pauline Lowe and David Thomas in memory of Frank Lowe, Chinese Cultural and Historical Project Collection


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