Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Lion dance antidote to evil spirits

Chinese New Year falls on February 8, when the Sheep makes way for the Year of the Monkey. The Herald asked five prominent Chinese New Zealanders for their New Year wishes and the traditions they keep. And today we run our final Mandarin phrase of the day.

It's bad luck to touch the tail of a Chinese lion, a lion dance master warns.

"Patting the head and body will bring you luck, and touching the lion's mouth means you won't go hungry during the year," said Master Jacky Luk, founder of the Hup Jong Mune Wushu Culture Association.

"But never, never touch it on the tail because it means your luck will hit rock bottom."

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What started as martial arts in disguise when kung fu was banned by Chinese imperial masters has today become an integral part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

The free-form festive lion dance follows kung fu principles, and is performed to usher in the Lunar New Year and chase away evil spirits.

This year, many will come face to face with the "creature" at Chinese New Year events and celebrations.

The lion dance is a highlight at the Auckland Lantern Festival, SkyCity's Lunar New Year celebrations and Chinese New Year events in the suburbs.

What do spectators do when a lion comes prancing up during a performance?

"Lion dancers sometimes move close to the audience to let them touch for luck," Mr Luk explained.

"Don't be afraid, go ahead and touch the lion, but some parts are taboo such as the horn and tail."

Other taboos when interacting with the lion include not touching the lion's horn or mirror because they are used to fight evil spirits.

Also, when you see a lion costume on the ground, do not jump over it because it's considered disrespectful to go "above" the lion.

Lion dance performer Poynton Shen, 44, said spectators sometimes spank the bottom, "forgetting" there's actually a man in there.

"It's a bit uncomfortable when our bottoms get spanked midway through a performance," Mr Shen said.

The Hup Jong Mune lion dance troupe will perform at SkyCity during the Chinese New Year. Photo / Michael Craig
The Hup Jong Mune lion dance troupe will perform at SkyCity during the Chinese New Year. Photo / Michael Craig


The Hup Jong Mune troupe will be performing at SkyCity on Chinese New Year's Eve and Day, and every weekend during the 15-day festive period. Another Auckland group, the Epacs Lion Dance Troupe, will perform at the Lantern Festival and Heard Park in Parnell.

Between February 7 and 22, Auckland's Sky Tower will be lit in traditional Lunar New Year colours of red and gold.

General manager John Mortensen said Chinese New Year had become one of the biggest celebrations for SkyCity.

Festivities there start at 7pm on February 7, but the biggest day of celebrations is New Year's Day, Monday, February 8.

Q&A: Jian Yang - Member of Parliament, National List


National List MP Jian Yang. Photo /  Mark Mitchell
National List MP Jian Yang. Photo / Mark Mitchell


What is your Chinese New Year wish?
That New Zealand becomes a more progressive, prosperous and harmonious society.
What does Chinese New Year mean to you?
Chinese New Year means family reunion. Since my parents and brothers all live in China, Chinese New Year means getting together with friends. It is also a great opportunity to share the Chinese culture with other ethnic communities.
What are your goals for the Year of the Monkey?
Do more and learn more.
What's the most interesting thing about you and your culture?
Visitors from China are often interested in me becoming an MP. There are many interesting things about my culture, in particular, China's 5000-year history.

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How did you celebrate the festival as a child, and what's your most memorable Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year was definitely the highlight of each year when I was a child. I loved the firecrackers and food. My favourite was being given a ya sui qian, money given to children as a Chinese New Year gift in a little red envelope, even though my parents kept all the money.
What traditions do you still keep, and how do you celebrate Chinese New Year today?
We still make sure we have excellent food. Sometimes we go to a restaurant to celebrate with family and friends and we still give ya sui qian to children. We make sure there is something red in the house, such as red Chinese New Year scrolls and/or a typical Chinese character for blessing - fu - or good fortune.
How will you be celebrating Chinese New Year?
As an MP, I will be attending many events to celebrate Chinese New Year with the Chinese and other communities. Privately, I will be having a big dinner with my family and friends on the eve of the Chinese New Year.
What animal zodiac sign were you born under, and do you think there are similarities between you and your animal sign?
I am a Tiger. I like my animal sign. It seems there are similarities between me and some positive characters of tiger.

Where and when

Where to watch the lion dance this Chinese New Year
SkyCity: New Year's Eve February 7, Chinese New Year February 8 and every Friday and Saturday during the New Year period at 7pm.
Auckland Lantern Festival: Friday February 19 to Sunday 21 at the Auckland Domain.
Lion Dancing in Heard Park: Saturday February 13, 12.30pm and 2.30pm, Heard Park, Parnell.
Northcote Lunar New Year Festival: Friday February 12 to Saturday 13, Northcote Shopping Centre, Lake Rd.
Remuera Chinese New Year: Friday February 12, 5-9pm, Remuera Shopping Centre, Remuera Rd.
Whau Chinese New Year: Sunday February 14, 1-9pm, Totara Ave, New Lynn.
Auckland Libraries Chinese New Year celebrations: Various times and locations. Go to aucklandlibraries.govt.nz

- NZ Herald

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