21 February 2010

Lion and Tiger

I heard the lion coming ten minutes before it arrived. Cymbals crashing, drum pounding, wood blocks clacking, the lion dance sauntered along the beach before the procession veered onto the path past the wetland toward Wang Tong. The musicians took a break and the lion decapitated himself to dry off some sweat, until they entered the village. Then it was back to work for the lion to herald in the year of its fellow cat.

The lion dance is part of the annual Chinese New Year tradition, put on by the neighborhood youth association. I suspect it's just a lovely cover name for the local triad gang. So whether your household offers lucky lai see money to the lion to honor tradition, or to ensure that your property isn't vandalized, either way it's about enhancing your luck. And at least they make a pleasing entertainment out of it.

When they stop at each household the lion does a little dance in front of the door before devouring a bouquet of lettuce, with lucky red envelopes inside, then of course spits out the lettuce afterward (lions aren't vegetarians). Some places had the lettuce hanging outside their front door and the lion had to reach up to bite it down, but in two homes the lion was invited inside the living room to collect his meal in front of the family altar.

This year I noticed that pure Chinese households received a bonus: firecrackers. Long strings of them, some lasting ten seconds or more, sending thick clouds of smoke through the air and leaving the ground littered with red blossoms (see the photo below).

Non-Chinese didn't receive the benefit of explosives. Don't we need to frighten away demons too? Are they implying that foreigners aren't vulnerable to demon attack? Or, wait a minute...maybe they're implying that gwailos (and the Chinese traitors who marry them) are the devils that need chasing away.

Next year I'm insisting on firecrackers.


  1. Maybe they think that gwailos prefer to be law-abiding?

  2. Or that you will tell the authorities on them.

  3. Law abiding? I don't believe that Lantau Island indigenous residents are aware of such a concept, other than the Ming Dynasty era laws which they interpret as granting them hegemony over everything. Anyway, if anyone called the police, the latter's response would be "Oh, they're just having a bit of harmless fun." There's kind of a libertarian live-and-let-live attitude which prevails here, which can be a frustrating nuisance when more major infractions--like treating undeveloped land as garbage dumps--go unpunished; but on balance, most of us non-Chinese who live here prefer to maintain harmony, at the expense of a noisy afternoon.

  4. I'm all for firecrackers. Since moving to the suburban development where I live in Yuen Long, I really miss the fireworks, which I view as one of the perks of living in an one of the indigenous villages.

  5. Hello, i am new here, just followed from Bluegate Gardens. Your posts amuse me and it seems you are amused by your surroundings too. It looks like a very fruitful farm if only can be managed a bit. Or maybe some new fruit trees and ornamentals can be planted. I would like to make it a resort farm, with spa and massage services too. Haaay, how nice!

  6. Andrea, welcome to Wang Tong!

  7. Hi Larry

    I also live in a traditional village...outside Fanling. And I look forward each year to the new year celebrations.

    You didn't mention it, so I wonder if you know why the lion is fed lettuce, given that, as you say, it's vegetarian. I'm not going to tell you directly, but this will explain.