In China, a lion is regarded as a guardian creature. The Chinese use these powerful beasts as protection as well as to ward off harmful and evil spirits. Lion Dancing is the most popular folk dance in China. Without going through the ceremony of Kai Guang, a new lion should not be used In lion dance tradition. Kai Guang or Dian Jing means eye dotting or eye opening. This is a ceremony where a special chosen person is assigned to dot the eyes of the lion. This ceremony is done to give life and tame the new lion.
Chinese stores usually have a Buddhist, Taoist or ancestral altar or shrine. In front of this altar, the new lion is laid out. The drum, cymbals and gong are played steadily and softly in the background. The appointed person will dot the eyes with cinnabar. In this practice, some schools also use the blood of a live rooster. The first thing to dot will be the mirror of the front of the lion’s head and followed by the eyes, mouth, ears and the rest of the lion. After this, it is said that the lion’s senses are then ‘awoken’.
The lion slowly awakens, as its eyes moves and blinks. Then the ears flicker, mouth opens, and body moves. When the lion is given life, the gong, cymbals and drum get louder and firecrackers are set off outside the restaurant or store. The new lion will usually always begin with three bows; left, right and then center. The lion will face the alter and do the three bows, then continue with the traditional lion dance routine.
Originated in China one thousand years ago, the lion dance is categorized into two major styles, Southern and Northern. The Northern lion is usually red, yellow and orange, shaggy in appearance, with a golden head and used as entertainment for the imperial court while the Southern dance is usually performed as a special ceremony to exorcise bad or evil spirits as well as to summon luck or fortune. The southern lions available in a wide variety of colors and usually have a distinctive head and large eyes, with a mirror which looks like bagua on its forehead.