SASA hosts Philly lion dancers

Photograph Courtesy of Luna

Valerie Osborne

vaosborne@ursinus.edu

     The Ursinus Southeast Asian Student Association (SASA) will be inviting the Philadelphia Suns to perform a traditional lion dance in Olin Plaza, Sunday, Mar. 18 at 6 p.m. According to their website, the Philadelphia Suns are a non-profit organization dedicated to building Philadelphia’s Asian American community through volunteer athletic and community service programs. All members of the Philadelphia Suns participate in lion dancing, which is a fundraising activity designed to keep members close to their cultural roots.

     SASA public relations manager Eric Hua explained the tradition, “The lion dance is a type of dance in [Chinese or Asian] culture in which performers dress up in a lion costume and mimic movements of the lion. It is a very essential performance during the Chinese New Year. In the Chinese culture, there is a story in which [devils] existed, but humans disguised as lions were able to scare those devils away. [Today, lion dancing is] a performance that represents joy and happiness.”

     “I have seen many lion dance performances before, especially when I attended school in China, and I always have enjoyed them. The performances were always exciting and [formed] a joyful atmosphere that suits the Chinese New Year holiday,” added Hua.

     According to Luna Kang, president of SASA, lion dancing is used all over the world to celebrate special events and is commonly seen at traditional Chinese festivals. According to the New World Encyclopedia, while lion dancing originated in China, different variations of the dance have been adapted throughout Asia, in countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. The multicultural aspect of the dance is what first compelled Kang to invite the Philadelphia Suns to campus.

     “[Lion dancing is popular in a] lot of [Southeast Asian] countries,” said Kang. “Normally we just do events that involve [one] culture in a certain country,” but [this is] . . . a more general event that [involves many cultures.] 

     Kang elaborated on some other customs associated with Chinese New Year.

     “[The New Year is about being] with family. Also, for kids, [the New Year] means money because they get ‘lucky money’ from older people and it means good food and it means new clothes. There’s a really interesting [custom] during Chinese New Year, at least in my home town [Kunming], that says you’re supposed to wear new socks and new shoes to step on people who say bad things [behind] your back.”

     While Kang initially wanted to book the lion dancers earlier in the semester to celebrate the mid-February Chinese holiday, the popularity of lion dancing around Chinese New Year prevented her from doing so.

     “We tried to invite them during the New Year, but they were all booked,” said Kang.

     Although SASA was unable to schedule the event for Chinese New Year, the event will still take place during a minor Chinese festival celebrating the new lunar year.

     Said Kang, “[Mar. 18] in the lunar calendar is going to be Feb. 2, which is what Chinese people call ‘The Day When the Dragons Lifts Its Head Up.’ And so, there’s a [tradition] that during January of the lunar calendar you’re not supposed to cut your hair. People say that if you cut your hair in January then your uncle dies . . . Feb. 2 is the day when you cut your hair and you get good luck for the year.”

     While SASA hosts events throughout the year, many of its most popular events, such as Korean BBQ, Bubble Tea, and Pocky Day, are centered around food. Kang hopes that the lion dancing event will show students that Asian culture extends beyond culinary customs.

     “I hope that [this event will] attract people to get more interested in Asian culture other than only [Asian] food,” said Kang.

     SASA will be hosting two more major events before the end of the semester. The club will be hosting their annual Tour of Asia on April 1 and will also participate in a campus Night Market on April 15.  Students who are interested in learning more about SASA or Southeast Asia or who are interested in participating in SASA events can contact SASA at sasa@ursinus.edu or Kang at xikang@ursinus.edu.