By Daniel Kun and Henry Lo
The discipline of Ngó Chó Kûn consists of many traditions, including the Ki Gun, which represents the fallen Míng dynasty. However, there are other that are rare, for example, Ci Sai or Green Lion (青狮), which originated from the art of Lam Tai Zo Gun (南太祖拳).
Unlike all other lion dances, the Ci Sai is neither a dance nor a ceremonial lion. It is actually a symbol. The Ci Sai, with its fierce face and sharp Fangs, denotes the Qīng dynasty for its brutality and harsh rule. The color green represents the word green; in the Fújiàn dialect of Mǐnnányǔ (閩南語), green is pronounced “Ci,” which is Qīng in Mǐnnányǔ and sounds similar to Cing. Therefore, the green also symbolizes the Qīng Green Standard Army, or Lǜyíng (綠營), that are deployed in local civilian populations and act as constabulary to enforce Qīng laws.
Finally, the shaven forehead of the lion and its wavy black hair represent the Manchu hairstyle, or queue, which was a shaved forehead and the back of the hair braided. This particular hairstyle was forced upon the Hàn as a sign of submission by a conquered people. Also, it was used to quickly identify radicals. Therefore, whoever refused to have their forehead shaved was at risk of being arrested and beheaded. There was brutal saying: “Shave your forehead or lose your head.”
The Ci Sai routine consists of exponents fighting the Ci Sai with various weapons to symbolize the struggles of the Hàn against the Manchu for their freedom. Finally, the ritual ends with the Ci Sai being subdued.
The tradition no longer represents political aggression or social rebellion, but hope, peace, and unity. However, it is very rare to see the Ci Sai performed today; hopefully, a new generation will uphold this unique tradition in the coming years. If not, it will fade away.
Learn more about the Green Lion and the Kong Han Athletic Club’s Ngo Cho Kun in GM Henry Lo and Sifu Daniel Kun’s book, Kong Han Ngo Cho.