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Published: Wednesday January 29, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 8:32:15 PM

Dance of prosperity

Auspicious start: Marguerite Foo’s family is happy to invite friends over to share in the blessings that the lions bring.

Auspicious start: Marguerite Foo’s family is happy to invite friends over to share in the blessings that the lions bring.

One family believes in keeping the tradition of the lion dance alive, come rain or shine.

THE lion is regarded as an auspicious animal among the Chinese community. It is no surprise then that this majestic beast has found a place in Chinese culture and today, the lion dance remains as popular as ever.

Lion dance performances are very much a part of the Chinese New Year celebrations as they are said to bring good luck. The presence of a lion dance troupe in the neighbourhood never fails to draw a crowd. The acrobatic skills of the dancers elicit admiration from the spectators.

The pulsating drumbeats and clashing cymbals add to the mounting excitement as the lively lions show off their prowess and agility. The highlight is the lions’ attempt to pluck greens from a high pole, a ritual signifying the reaping of good fortune. Exploding firecrackers fuel the adrenalin rush.

The host will reward the lion dance troupe with an angpow for its effort in ushering in a prosperous year.

Marguerite Foo’s family proudly keeps the lion dance tradition alive, year after year. This is the 16th year the family is holding a lion dance performance.

Foo’s family believes that inviting lions to their home during the Chinese New Year is truly auspicious.

The curious lions inspecting tangerines during a previous performance at Foo's house during the Spring Festival.
The lions taking a breather after a performance.

Come Feb 9, the 10th day of the lunar new year, Foo will invite three lions to perform at her residence in Shah Alam, Selangor. It will be a get-together of family members and friends. This year, guests include 30 children and adults from United Learning Centre, a volunteer-based centre which provides refugee children with an education.

The yearly lion dance at Foo’s residence comes with a theme. This year’s theme is based on the key values of loyalty, justice and courage as embodied in the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, a historical novel by Luo Guanzhong, set amidst the turbulent years of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era (220-280 AD). The novel tells of the sworn brotherhood between warlord Liu Bei and his two generals, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. Together they symbolise loyalty, justice and courage.

The Foo family believes that these core values form the basis of their success over the last 15 years. The family stayed together through thick and thin, sharing their joys and sorrows – that’s loyalty. The family is inviting the less fortunate to join in the festive celebrations to show that everyone deserves to be treated as an equal. Courage means being there to support each other in times of trouble and challenges.

Foo, 68, is upholding a tradition held by her great-grandparents who never failed to invite a lion dance troupe over every Chinese New Year. She took over the role of organiser after her 84-year-old mother passed away last year.

“It was the lion dance that helped forge ties between my grandparents’ families,” said Foo.

She shared that her great-grandfather migrated from China to Penang. He fell in love with her great-grandmother who had migrated from Thailand to Penang.

The couple tied the nuptial knot but their respective families were unhappy with the union due to cultural differences. Years later, the couple invited a lion dance troupe to the house, and got their respective families to join in the celebration to cement ties. Their plan worked, and both sides warmed up to each other.

In 1998, two lions were invited to perform at Foo’s previous residence in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, during the Chinese New Year. In 2000, the Year of the Dragon, the family invited a pair of gold and silver lions to perform indoors as it was raining cats and dogs on the day of the performance.

“The year 2001 was a prosperous year for the family,” Foo reminisced. “All of us were dressed in purple, an auspicious colour for the family for that year.”

Marguerite and her daughter, Genne Wong, showing a video of a lion dance at their home.
Marguerite Foo and her daughter Genne Wong showing a video of a lion dance at their home.

In 2003, the lion dance was held at Foo’s current residence in Shah Alam, for the first time. However, the family did not organise any performance for 2005, the Year of the Rooster, as it was deemed an unfavourable year for them.

“In 2006 (Year of the Dog), the lions did a formation called ng fook lam moon,” said Foo’s daughter, Genne Wong, 38, a sales and marketing executive. (The phrase ng fook lam moon, translated from Cantonese, means five “luck” enters your home. Luck refers to prosperity, wealth, happiness, health and longevity.) That year, the family reaped good fortune.

In 2010, the family sponsored its first lion after it was approached by its regular Chung Seng Lion Troupe of Kuala Lumpur. The sponsorship included paying for the making of a new lion and costumes for the lion dancers.

Several family members and friends chipped in to sponsor the male lion which was named Foo Tai Lung. That year, three lions executed a formation called fuk luk sau (Cantonese for good fortune, prosperity and longevity). The family believes that sponsoring the lions brings wealth to them.

“The names of sponsors are written on the underside of the lion’s head. We believe that every time the lion dances, good qi (energy) is activated and this enhances the luck of the sponsors,” said Foo.

In 2013, a female lion was sponsored by an uncle, Chan Tat Kong, and named Chan Chin Ling.

This year, a third lion will be jointly sponsored by Genne Wong and Jensen Tan, Foo’s daughter and godson, respectively.

This lion will be named Wong Yu Onn and it symbolises the offspring of sponsored lions, Tai Lung and Chin Ling.

Foo explained: “Although the lions are sponsored by us, the dance troupe is at liberty to use the lions wherever they perform.

“The troupe keeps the lions in their premises, too.”

The family hopes the latest addition – Yu Onn – will bring more blessings to them and their guests as they witness yet another spectacular lion dance.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Lion Dance, Year of the Horse, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, Chinese New Year, CNY

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