Chở Tết Richmond, Victoria 2018

Yesterday on the 28th of January 2018, Victoria Street in Richmond, (Victoria Australia) played host to their annual lunar new year festival…. to the tune of 38 degree celsius weather! It turned out to be a great day with an atmospthere that to me is reminiscent of the cho tet’s I used to attend as a kid. There were plenty of “mum and pop” type stalls offering things that are interesting to see. There were plenty of Vietnamese street food- bop chien, bo la lot, barbecued corn and other aromatic barbecued goodies washed down with plenty of sugar cane. There were children’s games like trying to knock down stacked up cans as well as rides. What I really enjoyed seeing were stalls that were set up with no commercial interest as its core. A lot of these were run by various local community groups raising awareness of different issues but also enriching the festival goers with history and culture. Some examples include the AVRN veterans group to give people information about the South Vietnamese veterans and a chance for people to sing karaoke, or about raising awareness about hepatitis in the community ( hepatitis B being a very common disease of the Asian people). Or the buddhist group with their shrine but also had a xic lo on display where you could take photos riding it and even. And the shop offering ao dai costumes (fair enough, they were trying to sell it, but it would be a great opportunity to girls to try on ao dai if they’ve never worn one before).

I think most important of all, the celebration set a nice background for families to enjoy themselves together during an important time in the Chinese and Vietnamese calendar.

Coming from Sydney, I actually quite enjoyed the festival and the atmosphere it provided. It really felt like the community got together and was showcasing what the locals had to offer rather than a commercial opportunity to promote a corporate brand or to make money.

As bad as it is for me to say it, I feel that a lot of the Chinese New Year Festivals in Sydney have become very commercialised. I am seeing a lot more stalls that could be found in any festival and not just Chinese new year. I’ve seen property groups trying to sell off the plan properties or politicians using it as a way to drum of support or banks offering their latest deals. To me, it doesn’t lend off the atmosphere that a typical “cho tet” lunar new year festival should have.

As a lion dancing fan, the highlight of these festivals is always going to be seeing the lion dancing from the local teams. And today, I got to see two teams perform- Dai Bi Quan Am Lion Dance Team and Jow Gar Kuen Martial Arts Association. I think both teams have some great performers amongst them (lion dancers and musicians) as well as a collection of impressive looking lions. Pair the two together and then times that by two teams and you get a great performance.

On the side, there has been some recent posts on the Chinese Lion Dancers Facebook page in regards to people’s experiences lion dancing in the cold weather, rain and snow!  What I want to hear are the experiences teams have performing in the heat!!!  Especially as these guys were duking it out in 38 degree weather.

Without further ado, here are some photos I managed to snap.


Mexico, home of Jose Jaime

Mexico. What did I expect to find there. Tacos tick, burritos tick, mezcal tick, tequila tick, grasshoppers in your quesadillas (tlayuda chapulinas) NO; a traditional kung fu school where the Sifu is cool enough to make his own lion heads- definitely NOT. But thats exactly what I found in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

It was a pleasure to meet Jose Jaime Fabian of the International Chiu Chi Ling Hung Gar Kung Fu Oaxaca Branch. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Jose is an avid martial artist who has been practising Hung Gar Kung Fu for a number of years. A chance encounter with his now sifu, Chiu Chi Ling, during a demonstration in Mexico City lead to him now being Chiu Chi Ling’s disciple. With diligent practice and a passion for spreading the art, he has now been able to open his own school in Oaxaca City. And that’s just the kung fu. As part of most kung fu schools who base their roots from Hong Kong, another integral part of the school program is the lion dance and Jose’s school is no exception.

Jose the lion and dragon maker.

Oaxaca City in Mexico is not quite the usual “scene” for lion dancing and dragon dancing. Jose and his students are the only team in Oaxaca City to be actively performing and demonstrating the lion dance and dragon dance. So it has been up to them to entertain and delight the crowds for those special occasions.It’s easy to forget that for most of us living in Australia, USA, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore etc, there is a huge network of troupes and lion dancers to feed off and inspire each other. Jose has had to not only learn the lion dance and teach it to his students but also come up with the props (lions and dragons) needed for their performances. To this end, he has gone one step beyond a lot of the usual aficionados of lion dancing and has made a lion head as well as a whole dragon!!! And I think he has done an absolutely terrific job with his creations.

Myself having made a few lions, I know exactly how difficult it is to make a lion head let alone a dragon. I have been fortunate enough to borrow a few of the old lion heads that were brought over from Hong Kong in the hey day of the lion head manufacturing era so I have had a great chance to study up close and personally with at least the Luen Fat Cheung style of lion head. I’ve also had the chance to really get close to and look at the frames of mutitple other lion heads as well as the paintings and artwork that adorn them. Without those examples, it would have been extremely difficult task for me. Therefore I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for Jose to have made the dragon- head and body and all and his own lion heads without any of the other reference materials.

During my visit to his gwoon, we had a great time chatting about kung fu and lion dancing. I also got to play with two of his “global lion” lions which are heavy!!!

On a personal level, Jose is an extremely friendly guy and hospitable with meeting with me on an absolute random day. If you’re ever in Oaxaca City in Mexico and keen to check out his school he can be contacted through the school’s facebook page. 

Here are some photos of the visit.

Some of the school’s achievements

Works in progress

Close up of the dragon 

Talking shop

More works in progress


Tlayuda with Chapulinas- thats fried grasshoppers stuffed into a tortilla