Keeping the Flame Alive

Kelvin Ng
3 min readApr 7, 2021
Yes that is me in the front

I am Chinese. I am proud to be Chinese. With the recent increase in anti-Asian sentiment that has swept the globe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I though this was as good a time as any to write about one of my passions, traditional Chinese Lion Dance. I have been doing this for about five years now and only recently did I really think about why I do so. Sure it’s fun. Sure it looks cool. Sure it’s a form of physical activity. But what I do it for is to keep my culture alive.

Growing up, it was hammered into me that overseas Chinese had almost nothing when they migrated to new countries in search of new lives, bringing only their culture from their homelands. As an overseas Chinese, born in Malaysia and brought up in Australia, it was my duty to keep the Chinese culture alive, to keep the torch burning. I’ve heard it so many times that even as I write this, I hear my dad’s voice in my head, but I am glad for it. As the world changes, it is important to hold onto what makes us Chinese.

Lion dance has been practiced in China and other Asian countries as far back as 206 BC and has a rich history across all of Asia. The style that my club and I perform is the southern style, originating in Guangdong. The style that we perform is based on kung-fu movements with strong stances and sharp movements. To support this, we also train in traditional Chinese kung fu, learning forms and basic techniques to help with our lion dance.

I started lion dancing in 2016, right after high school, as I was looking for a new form of physical activity after I dropped swimming, something I had done since I was a child. A friend of mine told me about a lion dance club and asked me to try it out. At the time, I was still quite shy and full of social anxiety, much like every other first year university student. However, for reasons still unknown to myself and even though I didn’t know anyone there, I decided to give it a try. To this day, I still congratulate myself for having the balls to turn up and dive headfirst into the sport I now cherish. I have become more confident, fitter, more connected with my heritage and made some great friends.

Fast forward five years and through literal blood, sweat, tears and chronic knee injuries, I am proud to call myself a practitioner of Chinese culture. I will not call myself the best lion dancer, nor the best martial artist and definitely not the best instrument player (I cannot hold a beat to save my life), but I am proud that I can keep the flame of my culture burning.

Whether it is coincidence or simply common across the Chinese people, my club also shares the same values of keeping the flame lit and the art alive. Our coaches are from the previous generation of performers that are passing down their skills to us. In turn we, learn, perform and one day teach the next generation who we inspire with our passion. We use lion dance to spread and promote our culture to a world far from our ancestral home. None of us are paid to do what we do, we all do it out of a love for the sport and for our own heritage.

To all my fellow Chinese out there, I strongly encourage you to start connecting with our culture, whether that be through something like lion dance or Chinese calligraphy or even something more mundane such as volunteering at a Chinese association. With anti-Asian sentiment at an all time high, it is even more important than ever that we embrace our roots. To all the socially anxious, identity confused, overseas Asians, I encourage you to take that leap, because I can guarantee you won’t regret it.