This post is long overdue. I just hope that one year hasn’t affected my memory as much. Last year, in October, I had the absolute pleasure to meet one of the pioneers in the sharing and dissemination of lion dancing information Corey Chan.
A bit of background on Corey’s work, he was a regular contributor to the liondancing.org forum back when that was still active. If you’ve never been to that forum, it was a wonderful source of information and a treasure trove of knowledge. And the best thing for us in the west is that it was all in English. There were different subforums and threads on all things lion dancing like general knowledge of chengs, how to repair lion heads, where you could buy lion heads and basically whatever question you might have wanted to throw at the group. It was great! Remember, this is before facebook existed and for a small community like the lion dancing one that is spread across the globe, it was the first connection that a lot of us had to what was happening in the rest of the world. Corey, himself and lion enthusiast, had a wealth of knowledge in repairing and restoring lion heads and developed a lot of excellent connections to source lion making and repair supplies which culminated in setting up an online store called ofcourselionsource. This is where I first “met” Corey online back in 2004 him during my first forays with my collaborative approaching in the restoration of my Sifu’s Cheung Fei lion head. My Sije Linda managed to source our silk balls, and bristle fur and other bits through him.
So, over 10 years later in San Francisco and after a series of fortunate events, I was very lucky and very fortunate to meet Corey. He was extremely generous with his time coming out to see me at such short notice. We spent a lot of time talking about all things lion dancing.
He is so knowledgeable about so many different aspects of lion dancing that the rest of us can only dream about. And it’s not just that he knows about multiple different aspects of lion dancing, it’s the depth of knowledge that he has- the art of lion dancing, the art of dragon dancing, the art of dancing the laughing Buddha that accompanies the lion dance, the musical aspects of the lion dance, the art of making the lion head and all the intricacies that come with it (making the frame, papering, painting and all the symbolism that comes with it), knowledge about the other folk dances in Chinese culture like the Pei Yau etc. I know right!! Talk about knowledge. And that isn’t his day job.
His students are incredibly lucky to have such knowledgeable teacher who is willing to share his passion with others and I am incredibly lucky to meet him.
The other out of this world experience is to see in person some of the incredible projects that Corey has worked on. There were a tonne of one of a kind amazing futsan lion heads, each one painted with such detail, symbolism and colour that they would all play starring roles if each of them were in a pride of lions. Danced together, no doubt they’d form a dream team. I got to see a baak wan made unicorn (kei lun) which was incredible. It was quite unique in how it was made that just like their lions, this one was distinctive enough for me to say that if I ever saw another one similar to it being displayed or danced, I’d be able to call it as a baak wan product. Finally, I was blessed to see an example of a luen faat cheung branded dragon. That’s right a dragon! Now if you know me, or have been following this blog, I’ve been trying to make a couple of luen faat cheung lion heads so I have spent a bit of time collecting images and studying some of the works that was produced in the LFC workshop. I haven’t in all my looking around come across a dragon but, like the other famous makers of old (Baak Wan, Luo On Kee, Bo Wah etc) there’s no mistaking that the artwork is quite distinctively from Luen Faat Cheung’s workshop. I need to dig up a little more history of the dragon itself but no matter the history, there was a “Patina” about the dragon that made it look majestical and the fact that is a LFC dragon just adds to the awesomeness.
Post edit: I showed some of the images to Yu Ying Ho (of Yu Ho Kee fame) in Hong Kong during my last visit there in early 2017 and he gave me a little bit of insight into the LFC workshop and the potential maker of the dragon. His opinion is that the dragon was quite possibly made by his Sifu, and rebranded under Luen Faat Cheung’s name and resold onwards (best way I can explain this concept is like how Tag Huer uses ETA movements to power its watches but brands it under the Tag Huer name rather than Swatch).
Whatever the history, the dragon head looks awesome! Definitely some patina there. Here are some images.
Great post and tribute to Corey! Couldn’t agree with it more. He is definitely “THE MAN” when it comes to lion & dragon resources in English. He’s helped me out of many jams on projects. Whenever I get together with him I always come away having learned something. Not only about the art we all love, but also about respect, humility, and life in general.