The lion dance is an important tradition to China. Usually the dance is part of festivities like Chinese New Year, weddings, funerals, cultural celebrations, and other community gatherings. Dating back to the Han Dynasty (3rd century), it was further developed during the Tang Dynasty (716-907 AD) and into its modern form during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Many practitioners are martial artists and the dance combines many movements designed to demonstrate martial prowess. The painted patterns and decorations on the lion costume itself are full of symbolism borrowing from many traditions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Fung Shui, history, Cantonese opera, and other disciplines. Most performers only learn the movements and do not delve deeper into the meanings and methods of constructing the costume.
Since his childhood in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Christopher Low has been fascinated by the Chinese Lion Dance. His formal performance training began after moving to San Diego in 1992, studying with master Man Keung Ng who taught the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association’s lion dance team. Christopher’s knowledge of building lions began in 1996 when he learned rudimentary skills through self-teaching and participation in an online discussion forum. His formal training began with master Corey Chan in 2011 as part of ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program. (A blog documenting his apprenticeship with Corey Chan can be found on our website.) He has since connected with several other builders online, both hobbyist and professional, and have improved his skills. He has received Master Chan’s blessing to teach and has literally written the book on the subject.
As a current master in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, Christopher will work with apprentice Cathy Trang, passing on to her the traditional techniques of this unique craft. During the course of their apprenticeship, they will restore a lion head originally built in the early 1990’s.