A dreary Sunday morning in Riverside was broken with the rapid and loud noises of a banging drum and cymbals yesterday.
Chinese and locals alike were at Tudor Street for a Lion Dance show in celebration of Chinese New Year.
The lion dance is commonly seen during Chinese New Year to ward away the evil spirit “Nian”, which brings bad luck to businesses.
Over 30 people were outside, despite the drizzle, to catch the spectacle. After a short performance by the South Wales Chinese Association Unicorn team, the Chow Gar Praying Mantis South Wales Group, whose school is in Penarth, took over with a display of kicking and dancing.
The golden lion was manned by two members of the group, which danced around Tudor Street and collected money in red packets and lettuce from the doors of several businesses.
Mohammed Idrees, 37, who is from Pakistan and lives in Riverside, was there with his son, Muskarf Akbar. He said: “I come here every year. It is very nice and my son loves it. It’s something great to watch.”
The tradition of the lion dance started in China to ward away evil spirits. A laughing Buddha meets it and tries to distract and lead it with a fan of banana leaves. It has since evolved into a martial arts routine and become popular with different cultures.
Tim Brett, 49, from Roath, led the procession on the drums. He is the group’s oldest disciple, having trained with the Master (shifu) for the last 16 years. He said: “I was part of the generation introduced to Bruce Lee and we have had an opportunity to learn from a Chinese person.
Chow Gar, which originates from the Hakka region of China, is practised everywhere, according to Tim and it was Grandmaster Ip Sui who first started teaching foreigners.
Anna Olshansky, who lives in Thornhill and is half Italian and half Ukrainian, said: “We’ve been fans for a while. We came here last year and for the last two years. It is nice to celebrate the tradition with other customs in Wales.”
The Buddha and lion entertained the children who had gathered there and had the crowd enjoying the sequences. George Sweatman, from Rhoose was with his daughter and said: “I trained in martial arts when I was in Devon in Exeter. I used to train with the group before. I came last year and I really enjoy it.”
After the lion leapt to “eat” the lettuce, which was bound to a red packet containing money, it “spat” its residue onto the spectators. The group explained that whoever the lettuce touched would have good luck for a year. The owner of the shop will keep the head of the lettuce for a year.
Mr Brett, who is also a photography lecturer at Llanover Hall Arts Centre, was determined they got it right. He said: “We wanted to do it right. Especially the more traditional side of it. “We are trained in not just martial arts, but in culture, tradition and etiquette. It enriches the experience and the training. It is the same as any sport, it requires good preparation.”