Sunday, February 15, 2009

Plucking the greens to bring in luck afresh

If there is a period when the lion dance troupes are out by the prides and most active, it must be during the Chinese New Year. While it is a good time for fund raising for the lion dance troupes, it is an important times as businesses and even households welcome the lions to come and bring in renewed energies so as to bring in new prosperity and luck.

This is represented in the plucking of the greens known as Cai Qing 采青. 

In Singapore Chinatown

In the old days, there would be a bunch of Shang Choy 生菜 (Sheng Cai or Chinese Lettuce) with an angpow (red packet, containing money) being hung up for the lion to find its way up to pluck the greens and be rewarded with the angpow. At times, the shops might place the greens as high as in the second storey for the lion to try to get them. The lion would have to consider if it could get to that height by having a pile-up of their guys balancing on the shoulder, one on top of the other. Others might have to resort to more mechanical means.

I was in Sydney during part of this Chinese New Year and was fortunate to see the traditional Lion Dance with the lion trying to pluck the green from the ceiling of a restaurant. Ah, such scenes are hardly seen in Singapore these days. In the Sydney Chinatown - which is like a one-street but very Chinese Chinatown (but of course) - every restaurant or shop welcomed the lions but it was not an easy task for them just to pluck the green.

In Sydney Chinatown

They came armed with harden bamboo poles fixed with metal "steps" to help the main lion head holder to climb up to the top of the pole. Interestingly, when they came to this part, it was the job of an older man (maybe in his 50s or 60s). It still needed gungfu! 

In Singapore, apart from the greens, the lions learned to peel mandarin oranges and make Chinese characters. Important words such as Wang (Prosperity) are important to the business people. Maybe, in the homes or the temples, they might give a hint of some numbers, for the 4-D (lottery) inclined.

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