Southern Lion Classification

Origin of the Fo He ( Buddha Crane) Lion

The establishment of the Fo He lion traced back to the year 1990 when the elders of the Kang Zhou Lion Association comes to the South with the skills of performing lion dance, they have learned from Heshan (Buddha Mountain) and passed on to their members. And in 1949, Heshan (Crane Mountain) association lion dance was becoming popular. In that environment, collaboration in the art of lion dance from Foshan and Heshan was studied, and information was exchanged. In the 60’s, the Fo He Zhuang (Buddha Crane club) was formed.

With this collaboration, the front of the lion head now represents Foshan Zhuang (Buddha Mountain club) while the back represents Heshan Zhuang (Crane Mountain club). The lion original length is 12 feet long but was reduced to 5 feet, and combines the characteristic of Foshan Lion techniques in which the stance followed the techniques such as Si Ping Ma, Zi Wu Ma, Cai Bu, Jin Tui Ma, Du Li Bu and so forth. The movements of the lion followed the Heshan Mao Xing Ba Tai (Eight characteristics of cat’s movement) and is graceful but with strength.

With the closeness of the traditional lion drum standard and the He Shan drum standard, this brings the addition of a new standard. The styles of the lion and drumming techniques are: Wen Zhong Wu (Military Article), Ji (Anxious), Man (Slow), Da Jian (Big cut), Zhong Jian (Middle cut) and Xiao Jian (Small cut).

Origin of the Fo Shan (Buddha Mountain) Lion
Southern lion is believed to originate from the Guangdong Foshan (Buddha Mountain) but unfortunately, there was no historical data to substantiate the facts and was based on beliefs that were recorded, which becomes part of the history.

Foshan is known to be a small town that nurtures martial arts exponents and the place to go for any martial arts learners. In the town, there were many martial arts clubs. And as long as there is a martial arts club establishment, there will be a lion dance group in each club. Hence, the origin of Southern lion is definitely in Foshan.

Foshan lion appearance is extremely fierce. The dance techniques use the waist. horse stance, Qigong, martial arts foundation as the basis, and the eight lion’s expression of: Startled, Doubt, Guess, Corrupt, Joy, Anger, Sorrow and Happy to bring life into the lion during the dance which will determine the skillfulness of the performers.

The skills of Foshan lion dance cover a wide range and are ever-changing. Especially the Awakening Lion being the most prominent requires a certain level of martial art standard as well as strength during the ‘Plucking the Green’ performance. Hence the performers for Foshan lion are more suitable for adults.

Origin of the He Shan (Crane Mountain) Lion

According to the records, during the Qing dynasty, a famous doctor from Heshan by the name of Feng Le Xin was practising medicine In Foshan. After settling down in Foshan, he showed Interest and attained the skills in lion dance and martial arts. When he returned to his home town, he passed on the skills of the lion dance and martial arts to his town villagers with the same family name as him- Feng. Disciples who have gained the skills are Feng Gengchang, Feng Yi Zhai, Feng Zhihua brothers and so forth where the most outstanding is Feng Gengchang. Feng Gengchang began to popularize and pass on the skills of lion dance and martial arts to the people of Yue Tang village in Heshan where the martial arts, based on techniques of Hong Fo faction, is known as Hong Quan Fo Zhang (Hong Palm and Fo Punch).

On one occasion, he saw a cat trying to catch a mouse which led him to combine the cat’s movement and the lion’s characteristic to develop eight emotions for the lion dance: Joy, Anger, Startled, Happy, Doubt, Drunk, Sleep, and Awake; and eight types of dance steps known as Catching a Mouse, Playing, Playing with the Mouse, Catching a Bird, Fleeing, Bending Down Low, Leap, and Roll. With such techniques and during a performance when the lion is not moving, it resembles the action of a cat waiting for a mouse to leave the mouse hole, and when the lion moves and dance; it is like an agile cat trying to catch a mouse.

In the same period, Feng Gengchang altered the Foshan lion’s head features: the mouth is ellipse in shape, the face is majestic and fierce, the forehead is raised, and the eyes resembled the shape of Phoenix’s eye but yet does not look fierce or angry. The lion’s tail is also altered to be slightly shorter that the Foshan lion. With the features changed, it became one of the two kinds of lion in Guangdong, and this lion dance was spread to Europe, America and South Asian countries. At the end of Qing dynasty rule, Feng Gengchang went abroad to perform and was renowned. Many lion dance experts in Guangdong, Foshan, Hong Kong and Macau acknowledged his high level of skills in lion dance and bestowed on him the title of ‘Heshan Lion King’.

Origin of Zhou Jia (Zhou Family) Lion

The art of Zhou Jia Lion dance was introduced by the Zhou Jian Quan faction whose founders were the originators of the Zhou dragon dance. The founders were from Sha Fu village of Tangxia town in Xinhui county, Guangdong province. This is the place of origin for the Zhou family lion dance.
The lion’s head is similar to the He Fo (Crane and Buddha) lion, yellow coloured base with multi-coloured pattern and white beard, has a rounded horn, mouth shaped like a duck’s bill and joined by multi-coloured lion ‘skin”. During competition, a shorter version of the lion costume is sometimes used.

The lion performers are required to first learn the martial arts before learning the lion dance. The Zhou family martial arts techniques such as horse stance are strong and steady, hands techniques are agile, strong fist and leg strength, and the body and leg movements are well coordinated to move either fast or slow. Hence. Zhou Jia lion performance displayed good martial arts foundation, agile, and with power, bringing the performance of ‘Plucking the Green’ to a new level of standard.