Chinese culture always attracts and fascinate me since my childhood days. There are many reasons but I have pointed out two prime reasons for that, one is the influence of Chinese movies and another is a Bengali Movie about a Chinese man. I think, after watching the film called “Nil Akasher Niche” Directed by Mrinal Sen that influenced me so much about Chinese culture. During my college days, it continued with movies of Bruce Lee and seriously my childhood dream was to be like him. My attraction towards China and Chinese Culture started deepening as time grows and my inclination grows through a series of reactions like Hu Yaobang, Tank Man and Hong Kong artists.
When I have been officially selected and invited as a Blogger and Photographer by Indian Chinese Association for Culture, Welfare and Development for their annual “Lion Dance Display & Cultural Show 2016” on 31st January, seriously I was extremely happy. This cultural evening has been organized to welcome Chinese New Year 2016. As all we know that Lion Dance is usually performed as part of festivities like Chinese New Year, weddings and in any happy occasions. This year it has been shifted to St. Joseph College Campus, Bowbazar, Kolkata, earlier used to be held at Tirretibazar area. I think, in comparison to previous years, this year it was more organized and a bigger show ever. However the festivities start the just day before the Chinese New Year and continue until the 15th day of New Year, which is also called “Lantern Festival“.
Chinese New Year – This year it’s called the year of Monkey. It will start on 8th February 2016
and will end 27th January 2017, according to Chinese Calendar. Actually Chinese new year is characterized by one of 12 animals according to the Chinese zodiac and it has 12 houses. Each house has a time length of one year. This year of Monkey falls on the ninth animal in the cycle and next year of Monkey will be in 2028. Every animal has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. So according to that, Money’s Strengths are self-assured, innovative, enthusiastic and weaknesses are arrogant, jealous, suspicious and cunning.
Lion Dance – As I have already mentioned that Lion dance is usually performed as a part of the festivities. The tradition of Lion Dance is cultivated from ancient time in China and there are several versions of history and roots of the lion dance. One popular belief is that the Lion Dance finds it’s rooted in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906). The Emperor of Tang Dynasty had a strange dream one night and in dream one creature had saved his life. After an extensive research, he understood that the creature was a Lion, who saved his life. Most interestingly during that period Lion did not exist in China and this is the reason for another belief is Lions were entered via the famous Silk Road to China. Rulers from regions, which are today Iran and Afghanistan sent lions to Chinese emperors as a gift in order to get the right to trade with Silk Road merchants. Although, because of his dream the lion came to symbolize good luck, happiness, and prosperity. Lion plays an important role in Chinese folklore. Chinese Lions are not resemblance to real Lions and portrayed as peaceful creatures. Also considered a divine animal of nobility and dignity, which symbolize strength, courage, and wisdom.
Lion Dance is combines of Music, Art, History and Kung Fu/Martial Art. This is an extension of the Chinese martial art, always performed by martial artists. Music plays a major role for the movements of the lions and when the drums, gong and cymbals played together, it creates the purest ambiance of Chinese Culture. Lion Dance is so special in Chinese Culture and it’s not only used for festivities, it has much other significance. I would love to mention here, during the revolutionary resistance against the Ching government, the martial arts community used their lion dance as a mode of communication with the other Chinese patriots.
Lion Dance Display & Cultural Show in Kolkata -I have already mentioned that I was officially invited by Indian Chinese Association (ICA). The Program was scheduled to start at 5 PM and that’s why I went there around 4PM along with my fellow blogger Subhadip Mukherjee. I was little worried that day about my camera because it was not operating properly and now it’s in coma. Just one week before the show, I came back from trekking of Kedarkantha Summit 2016. During the final day Summit, I fell down from an inclined icy trail along with my DSLR camera and that’s made my camera faulty. With an almost handicapped camera along with my cell phone camera, I have tried so much to capture the spirit and the essence of the festival.
Opening Frame – A soft-spoken gentleman with smiling face approached me and handed over an official ID card issued by ICA, he was Mr. Robert Hsu. Really felt proud for the privilege given by ICA to me.
Practice Session – From the very beginning, my camera was refused to work. Alas, I had to depend on my cell phone camera. When I reached the venue few people were there but the entire campus was decorated with banners and beautiful Chinese lanterns. Noticed that student from Taiwan were practicing a Dance sequence and I have captured few moments.
Opening Act -The opening act of the program was started with Lion Dance by Lion Group. Lettuce leaves were placed on a table and Lion would pluck the green leaves. Same act would be seen on the streets of Kolkata during the Chinese New Year. Lion dance troupes will visit the houses and shops of the Chinese community to perform the traditional custom of ‘Chai Ching‘, which literally means “Plucking the Greens“. Lettuce in Chinese called ‘cai’, that sounds like ‘fortune’ (Cai). Another auspicious fruit is an orange, which is tied to ‘Hung Bao‘ (red pocket/“Lei See”in Cantonese) containing money. The drums, gong, and cymbals, the colorful and energetic lion sets the mood for the rest of the evening.
Dignitaries – After the opening act Eminent guest and president of Indian Chinese Association, Mr.Paul Chung gave his opening speech. The guest of Honor, Mr.Ma Zhanwu, Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Kolkata also delivered his speech but majorly in Chinese. So it was impossible for me to understand but surely he wish everybody a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. Many other dignitaries and eminent guests were present on the occasion, Prof Maria Fernandes, Mr. Xie Ying Xing, Rev.Maio Ru and Suman Singh (Councilor of ward no 47).
Colours of the Evening – After the speeches from distinguishing guests, Popular Performer and Singer of Kolkata Mr. Thomas Chen simply fired up the stage by singing a very popular song called Méihuā (Famous song is sung by Teresa Teng and “Méihuā” is the national flower of China) along with ICA’s Dance troupe.
After the song, Chinese New Year Diary 2016 has been released by Mr.Ma Zhanwu, Mr.Paul Chung, and Prof Maria Fernandes. Diary along with Chinese Yellow pages were also available at a stall at a cost of 100/- INR and it came with a lucky draw coupon.
Children are always special in our life and their presence put more colours in any gatherings. Next performance was, Chinese New Year Song “Xīnnián Gē Er Dàjiā Chàng” has been performed by small children along with Thomas Chen. In the middle of the performance, Mr. Thomas Chen (Actually he was directing these children from a distance) got down from the stage and continued his performance in the middle of the audience. The gesture what Mr.Chen showed during the performance, it was just mind blowing and children were also excellent.
There would be an another unique performance of Thomas Chen’s original composition of a bilingual song in Hindi and Chinese. I was eagerly waiting for the song but unfortunately, It has not been staged. Hope to hear the composition from Thomas Chen in future.
This year the festival no more confined in local performances but added an International flavor to it. Last year the community promised to make it more bigger and they kept their words. A group of students came down here from far away, Taiwan to participate in one of the most prestigious event of our city “Lion Dance Display & Cultural Show 2016”. They performed so well and got a standing ovation from the audience.
Again Thomas Chen took the stage and sung a Chinese song “Wen Bie” originally sung by Zhang Xue You (Jacky Cheung), and later on made popular by MLTR – “Take me to your Heart“. He sung both the version so well, Chinese and English.
Next performance was Mikhaila Gomes & Leona Lazarus and they sung an English song called “Photograph“, so well.
There were many other performances had been staged one after another. Chinese Action Song “Táohuā Duǒ Duǒ Kāi” by Ni Hao Chinese Language School, Thomas Chen along with Irene Meghani and small children performed on a Bollywood number. Evan Wu an also popular singer from Chinese Community sung a Bollywood number “Jeena Jeena“.
Lion group – Fitness Club they played drums in such a way that poured real Chinese flavor into the ambiance. Then they performed famous Drunken Lion Dance followed by a pair of Lions and it was excellent. I had seen Drunken Lion Dance on the street of Tirretabazar during Chinese New Year. Here I noticed one difference, they kept only one bottle of Bear and performed with it. But earlier what I saw, a series of bottles were put together. Two Lions were there one in yellow and another was in white. Legends suggest that what originated as a “strange beast” to chase away bad spirits at the beginning of the New Year. Symbolizing the victory of good over evil. Finally Good Lion (Yellow) won and brought Good fortune for All.
As I have already mentioned here that Lion Dance is an extension of Martial art and may be for the reason they had also planned for a performance based on the same. Shane and his troupe performed martial art extremely well and this made the entire evening fulfilled.
The show was ended with let off the Chinese Lanterns (Popularly as Fanush)
Stray Incident – In the middle of the show around 7 PM, a police officer (On Duty Officer in charge) gave instruction to the authority to shut down the sound system and that’s made everybody sad. Prof Maria Fernandes handled the situation so well and again the show was started. Everybody from the audience clapped for Prof Maria Fernandes for convinced the police to continue with the show.
Platter – Any Chinese festival couldn’t be complete without satisfying Gastro Instinct. There were many food stalls selling authentic and yummy Chinese foods.
Lucky Draw During the show Lucky draw has been held and Coupon for the lucky draw came with a purchase of Diary. I got a diary for myself and yesterday I got to know that my number has been selected in Lucky dip. I won a Philips Home Theater. Chinese New Year really bring happiness to me.
Click Below to See the All The Videos
Beautiful Faces behind Beautiful Moments
Faces of Future
Pillars of the Show
I have experienced the entire show so closely and enjoyed thoroughly as a spectator. I feel so lucky to witnessed the Lion Dance and I have tried so much to give you the essence through the photographs. Unless If you have ever been lucky enough to see a traditional Chinese lion dance, it’s really really hard to make you understand the actual essence. After watching the dance chances are you have not forgotten it.The show was a grand success and hope will see bigger show in future.
* Indian Chinese Association for Culture, Welfare and Development, for inviting me for the evening.
* Mr. Thomas Chen
* Mr. Robert Hsu
* Christopher Ian Alpin
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