“Chinese New Year celebrations have now become an established event in Gibraltar. A stroll down Main Street in late January and early February is again rewarded with the sight of colourful lanterns and banners welcoming the Chinese New Year. Following the success of last years’ celebrations to welcome the year of the Monkey, this year traditional lion dances and martial art displays will take place in Gibraltar to welcome the year of the Rooster. The event will take place on Wednesday 1 February, commencing at John Mackintosh Square at 4.00pm where there will be official welcoming speeches followed by lion dancing and a martial arts display. The troupe will then parade down Main Street, and a similar dance and display will then take place at Casements Square at around 5.00pm. The troupe will then pause before a further display at Ocean Village at 6.30pm.
The event is organised by the Gibraltar Chinese Association, an Association set up in 2014 as a non-profit organization registered with the Gibraltar Ministry of Culture. The event is supported by local businesses such as Kleinwort Hambros Bank, Helvetic Fund Administration, Ocean Village, the Sunborn Casino, Property Zone, Grand Shanghai Restaurant and Kowloon Chinese Restaurant, as well as the Ministry of Culture. Reflecting the links of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom, the Association also receives strong support from the Chinese embassy in the UK, representatives from which will be at the display.
The celebrations on 1 February will comprise both lion dances and a martial arts display. Lions symbolise luck, and are a traditional feature of New Year celebrations. The dancing itself is elaborate and there are a variety of differing formats. The aim is for the performers to mimic a lion’s actual movements in costume. These movements are themselves specialised, and indeed most lion dance performers are actually martial art experts. In China, lion dance troupes from Chinese martial art schools or clubs will compete with each other to produce the most dynamic displays, visiting houses and shops to perform the traditional custom of “cai qing”, literally meaning “plucking the greens”, whereby the lion plucks the auspicious green vegetables either hung or placed on tables in front of the premises. In Chinese cǎi (pluck) also sounds like cài (vegetable) and cái (meaning fortune).
The martial arts display will be particularly interesting as the performers will be students from the Henglong Wushu Club based in London, one of the leading Shaolin Kung Fu and Wu Shu clubs in the UK, its President being Grand Master Wu Bin, master no less to the Hong Kong martial arts star Jet Li. The Director and Chief Instructor is a 35th disciple of Songshan Shaolin Temple China, Shifu Lin Cunguo. Shuifu Lin will orchestrate the lion dance and martial arts display. This is something of a coup explained a spokesman for the Association. Gibraltar has a vibrant martial arts scene, with clubs teaching Judo, Ju-jitsu, Kendo, Iwa Dojo, Karate and Taekwondo. It’s so good for local Gibraltar children to see martial arts performed at an event like this by a club not dissimilar to their own, and they are encouraged to attend the martial arts displays and if they want to also show what they can do.
There is an increasing interest about China in Gibraltar which is visible both at the business level with the Minister for Financial Services, Hon. Albert Isola, once again in China in January, and also at the cultural and more personal level at home in places like our local martial arts clubs. In fact international business and cultural exchange do complement each other because at their base level they both depend upon understanding and relationships.
Children of all ages will enjoy the 1 February event, as it combines action with noise to create a party atmosphere. Not only is there colourful dancing, but lion dances are accompanied by loud music of beating drums, cymbals, and gongs, all played to synchronise to the lion dance movements. As with the dance, there are different styles of drumming, each style playing a unique beat. Children are encouraged to attend, and perhaps try their hand at a little dancing or kung fu.
There will be a celebratory dinner later in the day, attended by around 80 guests of the Association, comprising many members of the Gibraltar Government, the Opposition, representatives of the Chinese embassy in London, members of the Association and representatives of the event sponsors.”
Happy New Year.