Blessing The Southern Kung Fu Lions

Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
INSIDE KUNG-FU MAGAZINE
May 2004 Issue


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Lion dancing in Southern China originally served as political act of defiance by revolutionaries against the Manchurian government of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The Chinese also believed that this colorful dancing custom could ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to their lives.
 
To make the creature effective and activate its magical powers, a Taoist priest must first bless a new lion. In Chinese this blessing ceremony is called the opening the light ceremony or ?kai guang? (in Cantonese, ?hoi gwong?). In the early days, a kung-fu sifu had to hire a priest to come to his kung-fu studio to perform the kai guang ceremony. In some areas of China it was difficult to arrange a priest visit; therefore, the kung-fu master invited the most senior member of the village to perform the kai guang for a brand new lion. In return for the blessing, the priest or the village chief always received a red envelope after the ceremony. Tradition was that the red envelope must have money in it. The Chinese believed that if no red envelope was given or if the envelope was empty, it would bring bad luck to both the host and the performer.

Today, kai guang can he performed by anyone with a high standing in the community. This can be the most senior person of the kung-fu system, a celebrity or any honorable person. Many honored guests may be invited to the ceremony, but it is acceptable for just one person to do it.

The materials necessary for the ceremony include: one Chinese red bow with ribbons; one pair of Chinese golden paper flowers (you can buy these two from any feng shui supply shop in Chinatown); ginger root; a new Chinese writing brush; and a small container of ?zhu sha? or red cinnabar powder. The cinnabar powder is the main ingredient for the ceremony. Many Chinese believe that this red mineral powder has the energy to ward off evil spirits or any lurking demons. As matter of fact, most feng shui display objects are dusted with cinnabar powder during their kai guang.
 
However, cinnabar powder is not easy to get. Because cinnabar contains mercury, the Chinese herbal shops are no longer allowed to sell it. Perhaps if you send a Chinese friend who can speak good Chinese and explain to the herb shop manager that is not for medicinal proposes and it?s for kai guang usage, you might have a chance to obtain some. All you need is about one teaspoon of this red magical powder to dot the eyes of the lion. To prepare for this, you must cut a sunken spot on the ginger root about the size of the teaspoon to hold the red cinnabar powder. Mix the red powder with little bit of water to be used for the ceremony.
 
The procedure for the kai guang is; first put the new lion in front of the kung-fu school?s altar of the past masters. It is best to put it on top of a small table or stance.
Then:

1. Light three sticks of the incense.
2. Pay respect to the past masters by bowing three times.
3. Tie the red bow with ribbon to the horn of the lion.
4. Hang the paper golden flowers to both sides of the horn.
5. Use the brush to dip some red liquid of the cinnabar from the ginger root to dot both eyes, nose, ears, tongue, horn and the tail of the lion.

Now, the lion dancers can pick up the lion and do the dancing. It?s good to include traditional lion dancing music with the drum, cymbals and gong to complete the ceremony.
If the ceremony is performed in public or at a kung-fu exhibition, the lion dancers should sit on the ground with the lion outfit over them. You can invite one person to tie the red ribbon with the bow, one person to hang the paper flowers, and one person to dot the eyes and other places. As soon as the dotting is complete, the performance of the lion dancing can begin.

Because cinnabar is painted upon the lion?s eyes, the kai guang ceremony is sometimes known as the dotting the eyes ceremony.