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The Tale of the Lion Dancer


According to ancient Chinese legend Lion Dancing began a thousand years ago as a means to ward off a beast, which would descend from the mountains on the first day of the Lunar New Year and destroy crops, villages and eat people.

Eventually the villagers realized the lion was just hungry and left out food for it to eat. In return the lion provided the villagers with protection. Today lion dancing on the Chinese Lunar New Year is used to bring good luck and prosperity. In Seattle Sifu David Leong of the Belltown Martial Arts School led his students through the streets of the International District.



Bryce Kawaoka, 29
We’re performing the traditional lion’s dance, which is part of Chinese New Years tradition where the lion goes to various establishments here and blesses them for good luck for the year. I was the tail end of the lion.

The (lion’s) head kind of leads the dance and the tail just follows the head and the beat of the drum. I can hear the beat of the drum and I know kind of where in the cadence we are. I just try and keep up with them and anticipate what direction they are heading.

Some of the moves we do are symbolic. The bowing is to show respect to the establishment. The establishment offers the gift of the lettuce to the lions and the lions play with it and eat it. It’s a tradition that goes back a long way in Chinese history.


My heritage is not Chinese. Not everyone in the school is of course Chinese heritage, but we all have a deep appreciation for the culture and the things that it offers.


I consider it a privilege (to take part in this). Building up to it takes dedication and hard work to learn how to do it, to build the skills that are necessary to perform this in a way that it can be appreciated.


I feel like we’ve been welcome. And they’re prepared. They had they’re offerings for the lions. Everyone’s always happy to see them come not only for the show but for the blessings and the good luck that it brings for the year.

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