RESPECTING THE FOUR CARDINAL DIRECTIONS
The lion will always pay respect to the four cardinal directions bowing to the east, south, west and north or “dong, nam, sai, buk”. These bows also represent the four seas around ancient China or “See Hoi”. The West sea is Qinghai Lake, the East Sea is the East China Sea, the North Sea is Lake Baikal and the South Sea is the South China Sea.
BLESSING THE DOORWAY TO THE BUSINESS
Chinese believe that the doorway to a building is a portal between the inside and outside world. Outside the door represents the society which cannot be controlled whilst the inside represents peace, harmony, family, business and those aspects that can be controlled. In another way, the outside is the yang and the inside is the yin. When coming to a door the lion will bless the right side first, then the left and finally the top of the door where the name of the business is. The doorway is blessed in this order as looking out from the business point of view represents the mythical animals that protect the premises. The dragon is on the left and the tiger is on the right. The saying in chinese is “Jor cheng loong, yau bak fu”, or left side green dragon, right side white tiger. After blessing the animals, the name piece or “man pai” is blessed to bring fortune and prosperity to the business. In the ancient chinese doorway was a step that stopped the water from coming in, this was known as the river or moat to the outside world. This moat must not be stepped on as it would bring bad energies in the premises. The lion must always jump over the moat.
BLESSING THE FRONT DESK
The first place the lion will bless when entering a business is the front desk. This is where the cash register is or where all the transactions take place for the business. It is the first place identified for fung shui where fortune must enter for a prosperous business. At the front desk will be the owner or manager of the business, the lion will pay respect by bowing 3 times to the person in charge of the front desk and bite the front desk to spread the fortune and prosperity.
PAYING RESPECT TO THE ALTERS ORNAMENTS AND ANCESTORS
The lion is a mythical beast that represents the immortal world. Choy Lee Fut and chinese culture believe heavily in tradition, paying respect to ancestors of the past and the alters of the gods. The lions will always bow to the gods, lowering its head for respect similar to kowtowing to the emperor of China. This respect has been passed on for generations and is instilled into the Choy Lee Fut Culture. Certain figures get greater respect such as General Gwan or Gwan Kung, the patron saint of China. In this case 27 bows are made both on feet and on knees. Other ornaments are the ground god, door god, god of fortune and lucky cat to name a few. The lion will also read the scriptures or couplets on the scrolls on the sides of doors and walls, which protect premises.
RESPECTING THE HIERARCHY OF ANIMALS
The lions is not the highest animal by rank in Chinese animal mythology. The lion is a symbol of good luck, prosperity and represents the people in society. The highest is the dragon which represents great power and the emperor. The lion will always bow the dragon when seeing it. Other animals are: the unicorn which represents the yang energy in chinese culture, good will, wisdom and the Chinese army; the phoenix representing the yin energy, the tiger representing protection and energy, spirit and drive; fish representing abundance and affluence; turtle representing long life and wisdom and cat representing luck as it disperses evil.
BLESSING THE KITCHEN OR PLACE OF PRODUCTION
The lion always goes to the room where business is created to spread fortune. In a restaurant, this is the kitchen. It is the second place that is most important besides the front desk. The lion will bless the front door to the kitchen, then the benches, cooking area and pay respect to the kitchen god to bring the restaurant prosperity. On the way out of the kitchen the lion will also pay respect to the chefs\cooks working hard in the kitchen with 3 bows. For example, in terms of a newspaper factory it will be the printers.
INTERACTING WITH THE CROWD
It is good luck to touch the lion. Chinese people will touch the lion as much as they can so fortune and prosperity can be bestowed upon them. The lions and Buddha love interacting with the crowd. The Buddha is the comedian of the lion dance. He is like a Chinese Charlie Chaplin, playing tricks with the crowd for a bout of laughter. He likes to fan crowd members and is accustomed to a cheeky kid that has never grown up. The lion enjoys teasing the crowd as it flutters its eyes and ears, snaps its jaw and snuggles up to people.
EATING THE LAISEE FOONG OR RED ENVELOPES
The lions are similar to a wishing well in chinese culture. The more you give the better the good luck will be bestowed upon you. The colour red in chinese culture represents prosperity whilst the colour gold\yellow\orange represents wealth. The red envelopes or laisee phoong are coloured red to represent prosperity whist the gold coins, notes or riches placed inside a red envelope represents wealth. This combination together when given to the lion bestows good luck. The lions will collect the red envelopes by eating the laisee phoong.
PERFORMING TABLE TRICKS
Customers in restaurants setup tricks or puzzles for the lion with a red envelope attached. This is to test the lion dance team’s understanding of culture and skills before accepting the red envelope. These may be in the form of: glasses stacked upon each other in a pyramid; plates, cups and bowls stacked up to form a temple or plates and chopsticks lined up like an animal ie a crab. Completing these tricks shows whether a lion dance team is well versed in the lion dance traditions.
BLESSING THE MARRIED COUPLE
Marriage means unity and love in the Chinese culture. Happiness is most important! When performing for a wedding the Lion Dance Team, rub the married couple with the lion spreading fortune and prosperity to the married couple. If there are two lions, the lions will kiss, scratch and groom eat other showing the bond between the lions. The lions will also bow the married couple paying respect and congratulations. At the finale of the performance, the double happiness character or “hei” will be displayed wishing the couple all the best on the journey ahead.
RESPECTING THE PARENTS AND FAMILY OF THE MARRIED COUPLE
Without the parents of the bride and groom there would be no wedding. The lion dance always pays respect to the parents and family as respecting the elders is a value deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The lion will start with the known grand parents as they are the oldest and move to the parents. The lions will play with the parents followed by three bows as a sign of respect.
CHOY CHANG OR PICKING OF THE GREENS
Choy Chang is the routine where the lion eats the greens. The green colour also represents money, good luck and fortune. The greens are usually made up of lettuce which in Chinese is called “sung choy” or life vegetable. A red envelope is also tied to the lettuce as a tip or payment to the lion dance team. The chang or greens is most commonly hung up high to represent the heavens. The lion will always perform 3 inspections before eating the greens. The first is a cautious approach to see if there is anything around the chang, the second is to test that the chang is not a live animal or trick and the last inspection is to eat the chang. The chang may be mounted high by the business or customer making the lion head and tail perform tricks to get the chang. This may involve the lion head standing on the hips or shoulders of the tail. When the chang is hung low, it may involve the lion rearranging the lettuce and other vegetables or fruit into a symbol or word or involve the lion performing a power move such as “larm yil”, grabbing of the waist to get the chang. Once the lion has the chang, the lion will eat and chew the lettuce then spit the lettuce out which means “spreading the wealth, good luck and fortune”.
RELEASING THE GOOD LUCK SCROLLS
For the finale of the performance, the lion will release the good luck scrolls. The good luck scrolls read phrases or symbolic words in the chinese culture such as congratulations, “gung hei fat choy” (congratulations with lots of wealth) “hei” (double happiness) and “fook” (fortune).