Pak Mei Unicorn Dance 白眉舞麒麟

Jie sifu in action with Unicorn

 

Unicorn

The four most important Chinese mythical animals (四靈 si ling) for a good omen are: the Dragon (龍 long), the Phoenix (鳳凰 fenghuang), the Tortoise (龜 gui) and the Unicorn (麒麟 qilin). The Unicorn (pinyin: Qilin, Catonese: Kay-Lun, Hakka: Kie Lin) is a fabulous creature of good omen and the symbol of longevity, grandeur, illustrious offspring and wise administration. It is also said to bring "Rui (瑞 )" serenity and prosperity. Interestingly, in the Chinese hierarchy of mythological animals, the Qilin is ranked as the second-most powerful creature after the dragon. For the Hakka Chinese (客家) the Unicorn is the most important animal. The Chinese Unicorn is some times called Dragon Horse (龍馬). A kungfu school with a Hakka tradition is easy to recognize through the practice of the Unicorn dance. At the Jie Kon Sieuw Students Association (余官秀同學會) lessons are given from the Hakka tradition in Unicorn dance.

 
  Jie sifu holding Unicorn head with teeth

The looks of the mythical Chinese Unicorn are most similar to the western one. There are variations in the appearance of the Qilin, even as seen in a single country such as China owing to cultural differences between dynasties. The Chinese Unicorn has the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, the forehead of a wolf and the sharp hooves of a horse. It's short horn, which grows out of it's forehead, is made of flesh; it's coat, on it's back, is of five mixed colors (red, yellow, blue, white and black), while it's belly is brown or yellow. It's voice is like the sound of bells and other musical instruments. The male has a horn, but the female is without this horn. The male is called "Qi (舞)" and the female "Lin(麒)". It is said that the Chinese Unicorn walks very gentle and is so careful it will not tread on the tiniest living creatures and will not eat grass that lies but only what is dead. To wound the Chinese Unicorn or to come across it's dead body is very unlucky. The span of this animal's natural life is a thousand years.

 

 

 

 

It is universally known that the Unicorn is a supernatural being and of auspicious omen; so say the odes, the annals and other texts whose authority is unimpeachable. But this animal does not figure among the barnyard animals, it is not always easy to come across, it does not lend itself to zoological classification. The Unicorn used to be the symbol of the most highest military rank in the Qing army. The Unicorn that is being played has no optical resemblance to known one. It's moves and looks are quite different than the well known Chinese Lion (舞獅). At the performance of the lion dance the players are high on their legs and the movements of the lion's head are in a shaking motion, mostly up and down worth. When performing the Unicorn dance the players are using very low and very high stances. The head of the Unicorn is moved in circular movements from the left to right and so now and then it's looking backwards. Is the Unicorn in a more restful mode, then the head is moved in little shaking movements like a lizard.

 

 

 

Unicorn practise in Yuen Long

 

 
  Peter van Aartsen with Unicorn

To play the unicorn the student must have a very good condition, because the movements are very heavy and demanding for the arms, back and legs. The movements of the Unicorn differ from region to region from village to village.

Like the lion, the body of a Unicorn consists of a head and tail. The head is usually much smaller than the head of a lion and therefore more suited for the fast movements. The classical Unicorn has a tail of about 4 meters. The competition Unicorn is much shorter and is measured about 2 meters.

The music that is played during the play of the Unicorn consist of a gong, which almost has a hypnotic rhythm, large cymbals of approximately 40 cm and usually a flute and a little drum. The sound of the drum is hardly noticeable and not as important as with the lion dance. The play of the Unicorn can be ceremonial or can be very comic when the unicorn head is fooled by his own tail.

 

 

 

 

Every year during the celebrations of the Chinese New Year (過年) the Unicorn comes into action, especially to bring the Kejia restaurants and shops good fortune for the next year by paying then a visit. Just like the lion the Unicorn eats lettuce/green. This is hung up high close to a door. Does he succeed in getting the green loose and eating it, that means good fortune! The higher the green is hanging, the better is good luck (if the Unicorn succeeds in getting is loose). But also at weddings and the first year party of children the Unicorn is often found.

 

Unicorn during Chinese New Year The Haque

 

Lion

Somewhere around 1990 Sifu Jie started performing lion dances, next to the Hakka unicorn dance.

 

Lion dance in Belgium

 

 
4th Qing emperor Qian Long (乾隆)

 

Together with Wong Man Sun from Antwerp (Belgium) training started in Merksem (Belgium). In the early years the focus was on traditional patterns like 'searching the snake', 'seven stars around the moon' and 'the crab' and on performing lion dance on Chinese benches and pots. Another important event always was, and is, the Chinese new year celebration. Sifu Jie his unicorn and lion dances are very popular in the Chinese community. Before Chinese newyear requests to perform during the celebrations come from all over Holland and Belgium (up to the French border). Some large cities where his team performs are Antwerp (Belgium), Rotterdam (Holland) and The Hague (Holland)

 

 

Lion dance at the Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam (China Town)

 

Later on video tapes with lion dance tournaments from Malaysia found their way to Europe. Lion dance has developed in a different way over there. In Malaysia they played lion dance on high poles. And the way to play the lion is adapted to that. Traditional lion dance focusses on power and stability but the Malaysian way puts more focus on acrobatic jumps on heights upto 3 meters. After seeing this Sifu Jie and Mr. Wong started to specialize in this direction. First training was on low poles. Later on higher poles were build. Nowadays the 'modern' Malaysian way to perform lion dance has become popular over whole South East Asia and competitions are held on a regular basis. Sifu Jie has traveled abroad with his team for a number of occasions. His team joined competitions in China and Hong Kong to gain experience. In Europe a lot of prizes were won.

 

1st Place   Dutch Championship September 1997 (Nieuwmarkt Amsterdam)
3th Place   European Championship March 1998 (Paris 1th place China, 2nd France)
2nd Place   Dutch Championship September 1999 (Nieuwmarkt Amsterdam)
1st Place   European Championship March 2000 (Paris, France)
1st Place   Dutch Championship September 2000 (Nieuwmarkt Amsterdam)

 

 

1th place in Paris!

 

In January 2001 the Pak Mee Pai Team joined the Invitational Lion and Dragon Dance tournament in Hong Kong.

 

Lion dance HongKong januari 2001