Celebrating Year of the Pig with Lancer lion

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The Lancers Lion Dance Club rang in the Year of the Pig with a school-wide performance recently, decorated with colorful costumes and graced with traditional Chinese drumming. The pig is the twelfth in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle and is known as a symbol of wealth in Chinese culture.

The student club consists of six middle and high school performers. In weeks leading up to the performance, they rehearse routines and delve deeper into the culture. The club will perform again next month at the annual Lancer Athletic Country Fair. All photos by Martha Nicholas.

(Left to right) Eighth grader Vanessa Laub and freshmen Tammy Huynh and Clarisa Babauta prepare the drums with a club parent and mentor. According to Chinese mythology, the drumbeat represents the lion’s heartbeat; without it, the lion ceases to exist. It also mimics the tale of how a village fought off the nian beast, known to take children if taxes were unpaid. Villagers made loud noises by banging pots and setting off firecrackers to scare away the monster.

The lion travels through a crowd of students and greets Head of School Betty White. The dance is performed during Chinese New Year and special occasions, such as weddings, to honor the special guests. This particular performance honored White’s upcoming retirement from the Academy.

Students admire the intricate details and bold colors of the lion costume. According to Academy freshman Zoe Chang, the predominantly red color symbolizes good luck and is meant to match the ferociousness of the mythical nian monster. This costume represents the Chinese Southern Lion, which has a single horn and is associated with the nian beast. In contrast, the Chinese Northern Lion represents Chinese guardian lions and is performed in male and female counterparts.

Third grader Skylar Chang gets up-close with the lion. The lion’s head is made using a traditional Chinese paper process called zhizha, which includes paper attached to bamboo or steel as a base. It is then decorated with bright colors and accessories, such as fur and tassels.