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Chinese tradition embraced in Malaysia

CCTV.com

02-05-2016 00:14 BJT

Full coverage: 2016 Spring Festival

In Malaysia, Chinese make up almost a quarter of the country’s 30 million population, and we meet a craftsman who has been making lion heads for more than 30 years.

The Lion Dance, usually performed to get rid of evil spirits and garner good luck, has a long history dating back to China’s first major dynasty, the Han.

The lion

The lion's head itself is the work of a master craftsman, Siow Ho Phiew. Now aged 61, he started making lion heads himself more than three decades ago due to pricing considerations and a lack of trade between Malaysia and China at the time.

Some of the auspicious rituals include touching the lion’s head for good luck, and giving red packets to the troupe. Most of the lion performers are from martial-arts schools, adding to the spectacle with acrobatic kicks and jumps.

The lion’s head itself is the work of a master craftsman, Siow Ho Phiew. Now aged 61, he started making lion heads himself more than three decades ago due to pricing considerations and a lack of trade between Malaysia and China at the time.

"At the start, I only made lion heads for my own troupe, then friends and other troupes started asking if I could make one for them. I said, ‘Ok, I'll try.’ After two or three, I realized I could open a workshop, and here I am making a local product,” Phiew said.

The process consists of three basic steps: making a frame; applying a papier-mache cover; and finally coloring the head to define the personality of the lion, according to the client’s taste.

"This lion dance is a culture. It’s not new; it dates back thousands of years, and still there’s many more to go. I think that as long as it remains a beautiful artform, there will be those who will carry it on. We’re not worried,” Phiew said.

Chinese New Year—the Year of the Monkey—starts Monday February 8.

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