Chinese lion dance and lion head construction
The Chinese lion dance is an important part of such events as Chinese New Year, weddings, funerals, cultural celebrations, and religious rituals. The lion is brought to life by two dancers; one animates the head, made out of strong but light materials like papier mâché and bamboo, and another plays the body and the tail. The lion is accompanied by three musicians playing a large drum, cymbals, and a gong, and a performer who plays a masked character called the Big-Headed Buddha. Every move of the lion has a specific musical rhythm and the musicians must follow accordingly: the drum follows the lion, the cymbals and the gong follow the drum. Lion dancers must be extremely athletic and most are also martial artists.
Corey Chan has been a participant in the Lion Dance tradition for decades. His skills as a Lion dancer concurrently developed with his skills as a martial artist—which Chan explains that the two are highly related. For the past 30 years he has invested much time and energy mastering the knowledge for constructing and reconstructing lion heads and other traditional masks. Corey has a wealth of information garnered from his extensive travels and personal research. He has studied lion head construction with some of China’s master lion craftsmen, including Master Wok and Master Wu.
As a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2016, Corey will mentor apprentice Jeffery Lee in the construction of the Big-Headed Buddha Mask of the Chinese Lion dance tradition.
Corey was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2014, with apprentice Charles Lee. Their apprenticeship focused on developing Charles’ performance routine of the Big-Headed Buddha role within the Chinese lion dance.
Corey was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2011, with apprentice Christopher Low. The apprenticeship focused on repairing and restoring an old lion head and choreographing a lion dance using traditional movements and elements.
A lion head restored by master craftsman Corey Chan. Photo courtesy of Corey Chan
Apprentice Chris Low preparing an old lion head for restoration. Photo: Sandra Low
From left, master artist Corey Chan, his 2011 apprentice Chris Low, and their colleagues Steve and Yogi.
A lion head stripped down to the frame, in the process of being restored by master artist Corey Chan and his 2011 apprentice Chris Low.
A lion head in need of a bit more papering during the restoration process by master artist Corey Chan and his 2011 apprentice Chris Low.
A lion head in the process of restoration by master artist Corey Chan and his 2011 apprentice Chris Low.
Back view of a lion head being restored by master artist Corey Chan and his 2011 apprentice Chris Low.
Inside view of a lion head being restored by master artist Corey Chan and his 2011 apprentice Chris Low.
Apprentice Chris Low and two lion heads being restorted by himself and master artist Corey Chan.