Feb. 10, 5:05 p.m. [Click sketches to view larger]
Seattle Kung Fu master Mak Hin Fai, 58, has the job of kicking off Saturday’s Lunar New Year Celebration at the International District.
When he sets off the first round of firecrackers under Chinatown’s gate, lion dancers and a 150-foot-long dragon will take over the district’s streets to the sound of drums, gongs and exploding gunpowder.
On Wednesday, I saw a little of that when I visited Mak Fai Washington Kung Fu Club, the nearby martial arts school where lion dancers train.
Mak said the dragon symbolizes good luck and the lions are chasers of the bad spirits.
In both cases, the skills needed to perform the dances are similar to Kung Fu and require a lot of arm strength, explained Mak.
The dragon dance takes ten performers but the lion dance requires just two.
Atsushi Kato, 20, and Royal Tan, 19, emulated the lion’s moves with ease across the room and took turns in the front and back positions. The performer in the front has the added job of pulling strings to open the lion’s mouth and make its eyes blink.
During the performance, the lions are chased by a Buddha that wears a mask.
That’s what lion dancer Mickey Huynh, 17, recommends to everyone else participating in the celebration. “For the best experience, follow the lion around,” he said.
If you go, you’ll recognize Mak for his charismatic smile, bright red attire and tinted hair. “Only in the Chinese New Year I put the red hair on,” he said. “It’s good luck.”
I felt lucky for the opportunity to meet Mak and even more so after he wrote the Chinese symbol for good luck next to my sketch.
Saturday’s Lunar New Year celebrations go from 11 to 4 p.m. at Hing Hay Park. For more information visit cidbia.org.
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