Spectacular lion dance will lead Chinese New Year celebration

THE lion dance, a colourful tradition dating back over 1,000 years, will roar into Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham at the end of the week to help mark the Chinese New Year in style.

The Real China restaurant has teamed up with Wrexham-based Glyndwr University which has sizeable Chinese student population, to host an exciting celebration to welcome in the Year of the Horse on Friday, January 31.

Heading the list of attractions will be a lion dance, a highly traditional and spectacular way of bringing in the New Year with its roots deep in Chinese folk lore and culture, which will be acted out in front of the restaurant.

A large invited audience of students from the local academic centres along with a host of VIPs from the region will also be treated to an open-air performance of the thrilling Chinese martial art, Kung Fu, before enjoying a mouth-watering buffet courtesy of The Real China.

The celebration, which will take place at 11:45 on the day, is the brainchild of the boss of The Real China and Head of International office at Glyndwr University, who hails originally from the Chinese capital of Bejing and has been in Britain since he came here as a teenager to study.

The Manager of the Real China, Mr Jian Qiao, explained that they were looking for a way of marking the Chinese New Year in a traditional and eye-catching way which would also provide a strong reminder of home for students from his country currently at Glyndwr University.

Jian said: “I thought that a performance of the lion dance would be perfect for the occasion as it goes right back into ancient Chinese history and is a wonderful thing to see.

“I know quite a bit about it because when I first came over to Britain in my teens and was a student at the Business Academy in Bexley near London I actually performed as part of a lion dance group. I was the front half or head of the lion while another young guy was the rear part.

“I did it for about three years and we danced at new year celebrations, festivals and shop openings. I had such an enjoyable time doing it that I thought we just had to have one in Eagles Meadow to mark the Year of the Horse.

“There are quite a few students from China at Glyndwr University and they have been invited to Eagles Meadow to join in the big celebration. I hope they will enjoy the lion dance and that it will help them think of home a little.

“The university along with Wrexham County Borough Council and Eagles Meadow have helped us organise this special day and I’d like to say a big thank you to all of them.”

Jian added: “I’ve been manager at The Real China for only a few weeks but I’m enjoying it very much. Before coming to Wrexham I had worked for the company of which the restaurant is part for a few years at its other branches in the London area and before that I managed a newspaper distribution chain, so I have been in business since I was quite young.

“I’m certainly looking forward to celebrating the Chinese New Year in style. The lion dance is now performed in cities across the world and also quite a few in Britain, so I’m hoping we can establish the same sort of tradition in Wrexham.”

Professor Michael Scott, the Vice Chancellor of Glyndwr University, said: “Glyndwr has a strong and burgeoning relationship with institutions in China and is proud to be part of Wrexham’s Chinese New Year celebrations.

“There is a growing number of Chinese students living in Wrexham and studying at Glyndwr. The scale of the occasion shows just how much the Chinese community has made Wales its home.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved, especially our partners, for organising such a wonderful event, which I’m sure will prove very educational as well.

“It promises to be a really colourful occasion and I’d encourage everybody to come to enjoy the spectacle.”

Kevin Critchley, Manager of the Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “I’m really looking forward to this exciting celebration of the Chinese Year of the Horse.

“The Real China has meant a wider choice of dining for Eagles Meadow and I am pleased they have settled in so well.”

The lion dance is usually performed during the Chinese New Year and at other traditional, cultural and religious festivals.

Believed to originate in India or Persia, the dance may have been introduced to China as long ago as the third century.

It is performed accompanied by the music of beating of drums, cymbals and gongs synchronising with the lion’s movements and actions.

During the Chinese New Year lion dance troupes visit houses and shops in the community to perform the traditional custom of “cai qing” which literally means “plucking the greens”, a quest by the lion to pluck the auspicious green vegetables like lettuce and auspicious fruit like oranges tied to a red envelope containing money, either hung highly or just put on a table in front of the premises.

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