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If one traces back to the roots and history of lion dance, one would discover that lion, the animal itself, did not exist in China. The "Lion" itself, was a creature that people worshipped as Gods, to rid illness and drought. The history of Chinese worshipping animal creatures as Gods can be tracked back all the way to the Tang Dynasty.
Long long time ago, a creature called "Nian", would haunt the villages every year on Chinese New Years Eve. Although Nian did not harm people, it would destroy all the crops in the villages. One year, the villagers decided they've had enough and needed to take action. They gathered everyone around, with farm tools as weapons. They also used bamboo, paper mache, multi-coloured cloths sewn together to make a lion, and banged drums, cymbals and gongs, as well as light firecrackers to scare Nian away. Nian no longer haunt the villages. From then on, the villagers turned this into an annual event, and gave each other red packets as a way to wish everyone a good year ahead.
The Chinese Southern style lion dance originated from Fo Shan, a region in Guangzhou, China. This style of lion dance is mainly adopted by Chinese Kung Fu school, like Hung Gar, Hung Fut, Choy Li Fut, Lung Ying, Bak Hok, Tam Gar, Mok Gar etc. One of the most famous lion dancer ever known is Master Huang Fei Hung.
The Fo Shan style is a very strong and aggressive style, mainly performed by Chinese Kung Fu practitioners. The lion itself has eyes staring slightly downwards and has a sharp horn. Back then, only some of the most senior students are allowed to perform lion dance, as it was a Kung Fu school's trademark. The lion dancers would show their specific techniques that would reflect the style of Kung Fu.
The He Shan style was originally created by "The Canton Lion King" Fung Gang Cheung (馮庚長) . He was originally a Fo Shan style lion dancer, however he modified a lot of techniques by mimicking behaviours of cats. The He Shan style could be traced back as early as the Qing Dynasty.
He Shan lions are very colourful, with a less aggressive look as compared to a Fo Shan lion. The lion is always smiling, hence why it is very popular with spectators. The foot work is a lot more agile, and jumpy, just like a cat. The music is also a lot more complicated, allowing the lion to express itself with many different types of expressions.
The He Shan style is now extremely popular around the world, with most teams now using this style of lion dance in competitions, especially on the high poles.
At Hong De Lion and Dragon Dance Association, our He Shan style is inspired by Grandmaster Lui San Yiu 呂新堯, and hence the style is called the Lui Family's Hok San Sar Ping 沙坪獅藝呂派一脈.
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