I never know about Master Siow's background until I browse about him in Google! He was the coach for the famous World Champion Kun Seng Keng lion dance troupe back to the year 1990. And here is a story of him and KSK:
"Kun Seng Keng was founded in the year 1989. In the same year, they won the Malaysian championship title. They then asked the judges for comments on their performance. One of the judges Master Siow commented: "Congratulations on becoming the champions, but I don't know what you guys are performing and what story you are trying to tell“. Leader Tan Choong Hing then decided to ask Master Siow to teach Kun Seng Keng.
In 1992, the KSK team surprised all the audiences by becoming the champion for World Lion Dance Championship held in Hong Kong despite all the criticism and discrimination as all the team members are teenagers only. They insulted by others of buying the world title and bribing the judges. Rather than descend to the level of their critics, the team replied in the manner they knew best and that was to win one championship title after the other. Once the public and the lion dance fraternity started seeing the team’s phenomenal success, the criticism turned into a new found respect for the team." (source from here)
- He is technical advisor and mentor of Qiao Yi Lion Dance Team in New Zealand.
- Master Siow was invited to Gee Yung Martial Arts Dragon and Lion Dance School in Hawaii to enrich the students with his art of Hok-San style of Lion Dancing and with his everlasting guidance which later making Gee Yung into a World Contender in the Lion Dance Championships held yearly.
- Master Siow played a role as a Tiger Dance Master in the featured comedy film called "大日子" Da Re Zhi also named as "WooHoo" in English.
I pay a high respect for him as he is down to earth when I met him that day. He never mentioned his past or glory. Furthermore, he is very friendly and patient in answering all our questions.
Other than that, he is well known for his lion heads making in the industry. He started to make lion heads back to year 1986. 20 years ago, he fell in love with lion dance but it was hard for him to buy a lion head because it was expensive and difficult to import the lion head from China. From being unable to afford until making his own, he did not have any guidance from anyone. Practice makes perfect. He learn by himself and gradually his works being recognized and admired by others. Since then, he started to produce lion heads in mass.
Now, he has his own Wan Seng Hang (WSH) Dragon & Lion Arts workshop based in Subang. He and his workers can produce around 500 lion heads per year with some being exported to Asia and around the world.
He makes mainly Chinese Southern lion head. Nevertheless,he makes also Chinese Northern lion head upon request. The workshop produces two styles of southern lion heads, Fo Shan and He Shan, both named after their place of origin.
The different lion types can be identified from the design of the lion head. The He San Lion has a straight mouth, a curved horn, and a short tail, the Fo Shan lion has a curved mouth, a pointed horn, and a long tail.
Three basic steps he shared to make lion heads:
1. Making the lion head frame
2. Paste the bamboo paper on the frame
3. Paint it
First, rattan are secured with adhesive tape and fastened onto an aluminum base frame. Interestingly, each piece of rattan used in the frame is like a bone and has its own special name. The traditional lion heads frame were made using bamboo but Master Siow modified it with his rattan version. It has gained worldwide acceptance because they are not only lighter and pliable but more lasting.
The small pieces of bamboo papers that Master Siow showing us :) Master Siow said some people using banana paper (made from the bark) to replace the bamboo paper in the making of lion heads. Nevertheless, he did not use the banana paper to make as the supply is limited.
Once the basic shape is completed and the lion horn is attached, two layers of bamboo paper and third layer of gauze are applied to the frame to strengthen it.
The artisan paints the lion head with specially-ordered poster colours and many types of brushes including those used in Chinese calligraphy.
One of the artisans is cutting the processed sheep fur to decorate the various part of the lion heads .
When the painting process is completed and sealed with a layer of lacquer for a glossy look and as protection against moisture, Master Siow's daughter attaches fur, ribbons, and bulbous fur balls to add personality to the lion head. A mirror is added to the lion head also to ward off evil spirits.
I took about 1 hour plus from KL to reach Wan Seng Hang, which is located not far away from Subang Airport. The warehouse is not big but able to produce 500 lion heads per year, all by hand made.
Siow's lion heads are placed at the front of his warehouse for photo shoot. According to Master Siow, Chinese Southern lions are all males. From tying the frame until it is ready to deliver, it takes about 8 days to finish. The price of a lion head range from RM2000 - RM3000.
Master Siow said he emphasizes 8 virtues in every member of the lion dance troupe.These include loyalty, positivity, perseverance, courage, intelligence, sincerity, harmony and manners.
At night, I was invited to watch Master Siow's trained lion dance troupe. The dance movements of the lion is synchronized with the drum beats and the expression of the lion making the lion looks like alive!The spectacular stunts of the team of "picking the green" is simply amazing. My heart stopped for a while when watching it.
From visitation to his warehouse until the presentation of his lion dance troupe, I can see that Master Siow really enthusiastic about Chinese lion dance. He not only views Chinese lion dance as a Chinese culture but also a sport. He hopes that the Chinese lion dance will be listed as one of the sport event in Olympics in future. And I really wish that his dream will comes true one day.
No 22, Jalan Bulan U5/168,
Bandar Pinggiran Subang,
40150 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia