The whole purpose of the lion dance, besides entertainment, is to get the greens, or the Chiang Choi. This is the lettuce that is put out as a puzzle and
challenge for the lion. The Chiang Choi has a special meaning and purpose in the old days of Ching Dynasty when the lettuce had hidden secret messages of
meetings, revolutionary activates and money to support the cause. The shredding and expelling of the lettuce symbolised the destruction and expelling of the
Ching rulers and troops from China.
Today, however the Chiang Choi represents good luck, triumph over adversity, and the money in the red envelops known as lai si or lucky money is used to support the kung fu training school and lion dance team. When the lion dances, it brings good luck and prosperity for the business it performs for and the crowd who watches it. If, as a crowd member, you give the lion a lai si or lucky money, then you get even more luck and prosperity.
There are numerous lion dance routines. Some are only done for specific celebrations or times, while others are more generic. Some of these routines are: Lion Comes Out of the Cave, The lion, the Severn Stars and the Moon, Lion Crossing the Bridge, The Lion Crossing the Bridge, and The Lion Ascending the Heights. However, there are certain basic movements that are common to all the routines. These are preening the legs, scratching fleas, falling asleep, sleeping, waking up, rolling over, walking, feeding, cautiousness, annoyance, frightened triumph, bowing, playing and extending courtesies. All this is performed in concert with varying drum, gong and cymbal beats, with loudness and tempo to match the movements and mood of the lion according the sections of the dance. Basically, the lion dance Performance is divided into three sections. First is the sleepy, awakening and bowing lion, second is the lion searching for the Chiang Choi or lettuce and third is the discovery of the greens, eating, triumph and bowing.
Two performers are required to operate the lion, one in the head and in the tail. The dance itself is characterised by skilful, quick and lively movements where the lion is brought to life. The performer in the head operates the eyes, ears and month while at the same moving the head to express various emotions and habits of the lion. During all of this, the tail is matching the footwork patterns, movements and mood displayed by the head, as well as preparing for the jumps and various acrobatic displays.
The moments of the lion dance the performer must display excellent kung fu skills such as strong stances, footwork patterns and various types of kicks, all coordinated with each other in a slick routine. All the kung fu skills must blend in with the lion coming alive in a performance. The movements of the lion must coordinate and with the beat of the drum, gong and cymbals.
The lion dance instruments consist of a large drum, gong and a pair of cymbals. The instruments play three, five, seven and nine star beats which are lucky celestial numbers to the various movements and emotions of the lion.
Below are some examples of the instruments used as explained above.