Lion Dances for Amma
26 September 2003
Once again, two lions danced for Amma. Even though treated to a preview of the Malaysian performance at Amritapuri last week, it did not prepare devotees for the beauty, acrobatic skill, and expressive nature of the art that was shown tonight. The Wong Low Shen Shee Chee How Temple Troupe gave two presentations of their skills this evening.
In the first Lion Dance, a little Buddha (Chinese monk) teased the lions. The lions chased the monk in a manner that combined acrobatics, dance and pantomime. The lion is considered a holy animal and it plays a central role in Chinese mythology. The lion chases away evil and safeguards the people. When performed well, the Lion Dance is believed to bring good luck and happiness.
The lions certainly performed well this night for Amma, and so, hopefully, we can expect good luck for the future harmony of the world.
In the second performance, steel stilts were placed on the ground in front of Amma a calculated distance apart from each other. The 11 stilts had a small steel plate on top of each, and were of varying heights and distances apart. One of the lions came up to the stilts and considered his moves very carefully.
From his expressions, he obviously wanted to get to the topmost set of stilts but was very cautious and nervous about making the necessary first leap. Finally, the lion head jumped to the lowest stilt. From there, he had to jump to the second set of stilts so that his tail end could follow. The continuing quest to the highest stilts was full of humour as the lion expressed fear, diffidence and, ultimately, the power of success in his very expressive face and body gestures. Everyone delighted in this performance.
The origins of the Lion Dance can be traced back to China in 205 B.C. when it was performed during religious festivals. It is always an intrinsic part of important festivals such as the New Year celebrations and other grand events.
The Wong Low Shen Shee Temple of Malaysia was established in 1967 to honour three deities of different faiths: Wong Low Shen Shee (Buddhist), Song Lau Koon (Taoist) and Hanuman (Hindu). Wong Low Shen See was an extremely generous, fair, compassionate and loving emperor who lived in China about 5,000 years ago. Temples are still built to honour him, and to carry on his life’s work of helping the poor.