Rare traditional ceremony for the new lions received by the Prince Rupert Chinese Association was held on Feb. 22. Amy Wong president, watches Lee Brain, Prince Rupert mayor, as he is served the traditional writing brush by Kohen Chan, to dot the eyes of the lions which signifies their birth or coming to life. (Photo: K-J Millar/the Northern View)

Chinese New Year celebrates 2020 year of the rat

Lions woken in rare traditional Chinese New Year ceremony

Never wake a sleeping bear they say. What about lions?

Two large red ones came to life, in front of more than 260 people at the Prince Rupert Chinese Association new year celebrations, held at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre on Feb. 22. The non-profit association was gifted two new lions from the Chinese Council after the Chinese Consular-General visited for the 2018 celebrations.

The lions were awoken during the traditional eye dotting ceremony idenitifying the birth or coming to life of the creatures which welcomed in the 2020 year of the rat. This significant ceremony happens only once, when the new lions dance costumes are used for the first time. A Chinese writing brush is used to paint the eyes open during the ceremony.

“I’ve been here in Prince Rupert for 55 years. It’s only the second time we’ve seen the dotting of the eyes. It signifies waking the lions up,” said Amy Wong, Chinese Association President.

READ MORE: Year of the Pig celebrated in Prince Rupert

In ancient Chinese culture the lion is highly esteemed as a symbol of bravery and strength. It is believed that it could drive away evil spirits to protect people and their animals.

“The Lion is the honor of all animals, brave and valorous, powerful and handsome, ” said Hu Qiquan, Consul at the Chinese Consulate General in Vancouver.

The new costumes were long awaited as the previous ones needed replacing. They were so well used that Wong couldn’t remember how old they actually were. It took two years for the costumes to arrive locally.

During her visit to Prince Rupert in 2018, Mme. Tong Xiaoling, the Chinese ConsulGeneral, understood the living conditions of local Chinese communities. She recognized the need for two dance lions to promote the heritage of Chinese culture in Prince Rupert, Hu said.

“In consideration of this, the ConsulGeneral made arrangements to order these two dance lions costumes from China and donated them to the local Chinese Freemasons as a token of friendship,” Hu said.

It is hoped this gift will improve the multiculturalism in Prince Rupert, Hu said, as it will assist the local Chinese community to promote and present the best traditional culture to various communities.

READ MORE: VIDEO AND STORY: Prince Rupert celebrations headlined with First Nations and Chinese collaboration

The Lion Dance has a history of almost 2000 years in Chinese tradition, explained Hu. The dance is an important part of the traditional Chinese culture to express fortune, happiness, good luck and prosperity.

People usually participate in the Lion Dance during the various festivals and celebratory occasions such as the Chinese Spring Festival, the Lantern Festival and other activities.

K-J Millar | Journalist
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Eye dotting is performed only once in a lions life time. The traditional Chinese ceremony signifies the awakening of the lion the first time the costumes are used for the cultural Lion Dance. Raymond Mar has the honour of bringing life to this lion as he dots the eyes open on Feb. 22 at the Prince Rupert Chinese new year celebrations. (Photo: K-J Millar)

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