The ancient art of Chinese lion dance has survived through many generations. Evolving from a simple ritual used to chase away evil spirits and bring good fortunes not long ago, it has developed into a sport seen around the word. This past October, Hawaii was treated to one of these exhibitions and competitions, attracting teams from across the Pacific Rim to the First Annual Lion Kings Competition at the Neal Blaisdell Center. This new breed of Chinese lions are no longer associated simply with looking frightening and linked to firecrackers, it is now also looked upon as a cute, furry, and defines what people can achieve when your mind is set to it

This sport of Jong (pole) jumping has developed within the past decade in China. With the team consisting of six instruments, one head, and one tail player, the team tries to portray a lion climbing the mountain the best they can. The goal of each routine is to tell a story of the lion climbing up a mountain searching for the flower of immortality. Upon finding the flower of immortality, the lion eats it, but soon feels remorseful and spits it out. With the poles representing the mountain, ranging from 3 to 9 ft high, it leaps its way up till it reaches the flower. While on jumping up and down the mountain, the lionís characteristics of happiness, excitement, and fright are portrayed as any real animal would. Acrobatic movements can be seen on poles high and low, all on plates only 12 inches wide.

Like the similar sport of figure skating, this sport is judged on character (best portrayal of a lion), difficulty and completion of tricks, and synchronization of the drum and lion. A panel of judges score the teams, and the scoresí average is compiled.

With the explosion of enthusiasm toward this new sport, it has reached countries as far as the Netherlands, Canada, and even Hawaii with the Lion Kings Competition. Generally stemming from Asia, teams such as China, Hong Kong, and Malaysia have already established a name for themselves in this newly developed sport. Even teams in the United States are building their reputation.

For the Lion Kings Competition, Hawaii's Chinese Lion Dance Association was proud enough to invite and host several championship teams from each country to compete for a cash prize of $10,000. In future competitions, this field may expand to include even more competing teams from a broader geography.

Coming out on top was the team from Hong Kong, second Taiwan, and third San Francisco. At an extremely close fourth was the Chinese Lion Dance Association team from Hawaii. Taking tops in Hawaii and following so closely behind other international teams, the Chinese Lion Dance Association says, ďJust knowing that Hawaii can compete at a world class level is exciting.Ē

Seeing how this sport is still in its infant stages, it has great potential to become a sport for the ages. The enthusiasm encountered in the Blaisdell Arena has prompted this past tournament to be an annual event. If you did not get to check out this past tournament, make sure you make it out next time because itís guaranteed to be even better.

Article by: Victor Wong, Khai Tran (ed.)
Photos by: Khai Tran

If you would like to preorder the upcoming DVD of the Lion Kings Competition, click here, or email us at info@aznlyfe.com for more information. For a preview of what's in store, check out the trailer (3.5MB, Windows Media Player required).