World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Leung's White Crane Lion & Dragon Dance Assoc.

Dance Origin: China
Chinese Lion Dance
Artistic Director:
Jimmy Leung
Daniel Leung
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2007

China's lion dance originated over 1500 years ago. The lion is not native to China, but was introduced by travelers along the Silk Road, when a performing lion and a trainer were given as a tribute to Emperor Shun (126-145 BCE). Travelers from India and Nepal carried in Buddhist images of the lion, a symbol of strength and dignity. Throughout China, the lion came to symbolize strength, luck, and joy, and acrobats donned costumes to bring the lion alive. For over a thousand years, China's lions have been dancing—to entertain imperial courts, and to bless farming societies, official celebrations, temples, plantings and harvests, religious rites, and in modern times, business openings, births, and weddings. 

Leung's White Crane Lion & Dragon Dance Association was founded in 1971 by Leung brothers, Kuen, Kwan, and Allen. The brothers' long association with the lion dance began as children playing in China: at home, they invented a lion costume out of a large bamboo basket and a blanket, and danced while banging on empty kerosene cans. Boyhood play grew to a serious study of martial arts and lion dancing in China, and they brought their skills to the Bay Area. Over thirty-seven years, Leung’s White Crane has promoted and participated in a long list of shows, celebrations, films, competitions, and charity work all over North America and Asia. In 1992, the Leung’s took 2nd place in the Hong Kong World Lion Dance Tournament, and their amusing and joyful lions dance annually at the grand finale of San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade. Kuen's son, Daniel, is headmaster of martial arts; Kwan's son, Jimmy, coaches advanced lion dance; and Allen's son, Clifton, manages operations.


Title: Curious Lion Seeking Immortal Green Flower
Danny Luong, Peter Luong
Morgan Liao, David Luong, Victor Leung

The southern lion dance, performed today by Leung’s White Crane Lion & Dragon Dance Association, remains a dance of entertainment. China's early choreographers had never seen a lion, so the southern lion looks and acts more like a cat, and this northern lion—short, stocky, and furry—resembles an oversized Pekinese. One performer holds the lion’s head with both hands and another crouches at the lion’s tail. The dancers make great use of the animal's prancing legs, and their movements follow a specified sequence. The dance is highly acrobatic and it requires extensive training in martial arts. Traditionally, a martial artist leads the dance; with a pair of adult lions and one or two young cubs. The traditional payment for lion dancers is also amusing: it is made through the Choy Cheng, or “Eating of the Green (Vegetable)." A leafy green vegetable is tied to a lucky red envelope filled with money. The lion approaches, tests the food to make sure it's not a firecracker, dances to ward off competitors, and then eats its pay.


TITLE: Lion Leaping Through the Plum Blossom Mountain to Reach the High Green
CHOREOGRAPHERS/COACHES: Daniel Leung and Jimmy Leung
DANCERS: Danny Luong and Peter Luong
MUSICIANS: Larry Chan, Morgan Liao, David Luong, Kevin Yu

There are many different kinds of lion dances with distinctive styles and historical roots. Leung’s White Crane presents a Cantonese style similar to the type preserved by Cantonese opera groups in the late 18th century. Lion Leaping Through the Plum Blossom Mountain to Reach the High Green symbolizes the goals that human beings try to attain during their lifetimes, and the eight posts represent the obstacles and challenges encountered in life to reach those goals. With hard work, discipline, imagination, and teamwork, the lion achieves its goals and brings joy and luck to the people.

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