28 lions awaken for Chinese New Year


PENAMPANG: Amidst the thunderous beating of the drums and clashing of the cymbals, 28 lions ‘woke-up’ from their long slumber much to the delight of the crowd.

The lions had just undergone the awakening ceremony where their eyes were ‘opened’ by elected representatives and community leaders yesterday.

Traditionally, the lion’s eyes are opened through an eye-dotting ceremony and this was what Penampang member of parliament Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, Kapayan assemblyman Datuk Edward Khoo and Moyog assemblyman Datuk Donald Mojuntin did.

The eye-dotting ceremony is an annual and much anticipated event as it indicates that the Chinese New Year celebration is just around the corner.

The lion heads were distributed to eleven associations in Penampang, namely, the Foo Tet Kung Temple Donggongon Penampang, Persatuan Penganut Agama Buddah Fook Tet Putatan, Nan Bang Lion Dance, Persatuan Penduduk Rumah Murah Kepayan, Kelab Tarian Singa Muda Mudi Penampang, Persatuan Catur Penampang , Persatuan Kebudayaan Seni Mempertahankan Diri Cina Shaolin Wushu Kota Kinabalu, Persatuan Tarian Naga dan Singa Daerah Penampang, Persatuan Penganut Dewa Yu Qing Gong, San Sheng Kung Temple and Wan San Lion Dance.

Khoo who was met after the ceremony said that the main purpose of having the event was to promote the lion and dragon dance.

He also expressed his happiness over the success of the annual event which is enjoyed by all.

“I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a very happy and prosperous Chinese New Year,” Khoo who is also assistant minister in the Chief Minister’s Department and Sabah MCA liaison chairman said.

According to the Hung Kuen website, new Southern Chinese Lions must be blessed by a traditional ceremony called the Hoi Gong (eye opening/dotting).

Traditionally a new lion should not be used if it has not gone through the Hoi Gong ceremony. According to the tradition if the lion is used at any kind of event without being blessed or awakened it will bring misfortune and bad luck.

“Dotting the Eye” refers in particular to the Chinese tradition of painting in the eye of the Chinese lion before the start of the lion dance to awaken the spirit of the lion.

Hoi Gong is a traditional ceremony to bless and awaken a new lion or in a more traditional concept bring down the spirit of the lion from the heaven and give it life. In other words this ceremony signifies the existence or birth of a new lion into the world.

Traditionally a priest/monk begins the ceremony with the chanting of prayers to heavenly gods and summon the spirit and soul of the lion from the heaven down into the lion. An important individual is invited to the open the eyes of the lion by dotting the lion with symbolic blood or red ink-cinnabar and traditionally the blood from a live rooster’s comb was used to dot the lion.

According to Chinese tradition red is regarded as a life giving colour as well as being associated with good fortune and prosperity and the rooster symbolises maleness/positive yang element, which represents life and power.

First the mirror on the lion’s forehead is dotted to give the lion life. Second are the eyes for sight, followed by the nose, tongue, ears, horn, back of head, spine and finally the tail.

Then a red ribbon is tied to the lion’s horn, which is a symbol of courage and honour and signify that the lion is tamed.

The red ribbon is also a reminder for the lion to do only good deeds.