Dancing Lions and Painted-Face Warriors: A Temple Celebration in Lugang (Lukang), Taiwan [A Photo-Essay]

Lion Dance (Jump - One of my favorite pictures) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Jump – One of my favorite pictures) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Side Shot of a Warrior - Temple Celebration in Lugang (Lukang), Taiwan
Side Shot of a Warrior – Temple Celebration in Lugang (Lukang), Taiwan

My General Impressions about Lugang

I must admit that I love Lugang (often spelled ‘Lukang’) and I love visiting the place. The place is rich with history and there is always something unique and different that captures my attention every time I visit. I know it gets a bad rap by most foreigners, as the place is often regarded as ‘boring’ and ‘not much to do’ there, on one of the forums for expats in Taiwan – but in all honesty, I love the place.

It has been an inspiration for me and for many blog posts. It is the place where I saw traditional doors for the first time. It is where I spent an afternoon exploring everything glass, including a glass temple. And let’s not forget those old temples, particularly the temple rooftops, that left me in awe.

Dragons and Warriors

Lugang was also the place where I saw ‘lions’ dance around for the very first time, where I first laid eyes on warriors with perfectly painted faces, and where I saw a man ‘obsessed and embodying’ the gods who physically hurt himself with a sword (yes, blood was running everywhere and it was a very hard for me to watch).

So, you can imagine my disappointment when my husband returned from a day of cycling to and around Lugang with a collection of lion dance and warrior photos. Yes, what started out as a cycling trip to and around Lugang for my husband and his buddies, with the main purpose to ‘eat’ Lugang, turned into a tour of the places’ main temples and attractions. The town is known for having several famous dishes and they cycled around the place, constantly refueling at roadside stands and markets serving delicious food.

But, let’s get back to the collection of pictures included in this post.

Yes, the photos in this post weren’t taken by me but rather my other half. I wished I had to have been there when the lion danced and the warriors did their routine, but I wasn’t.

Witnessing My First Lion Dance

However, what the pictures did do was to remind me of the first time I went to Lugang and saw the lion dance for the first time. I recalled how the lions swayed back and forth to the beat of the drum. I recalled the precision and accuracy of the two lion dancers as one would step on the other’s shoulders to make the lion soar through the air. I remembered how they came right in front of me shaking and twisting and allowed me to take close-up photos. And I still remember the excitement I felt inside to finally see something so unique and different for the first time. And how can I forget them posing for a picture with me afterwards.

And then I remembered the warriors making their appearance. The hand-painted make-up looked flawless and I wondered how long it took to paint such details with accuracy. I recalled their routine and their serious faces as the pranced around outside the temple. I remembered how they interacted with each other and with their weapons drawn and heads held high.

Yes, that is what these pictures did of me. It reminded me of some wonderful memories of when I was first an expat in Taiwan.

And I am glad that spark of being surrounded by something new and amazing and different hasn’t dwindled with time.

But, then again, I know myself and I know it never will.

~~These pictures were taken with my husband’s smartphone so the quality of the pictures area not as good as a camera, but I have to admit, the subjects in the images are pretty awesome.  I also included some photos of ‘the crowd’ watching as well.  Hope you enjoy!~~

Have you ever witnessed anything like this before?  If so, please leave me a note in the comment box below.  If not, would seeing something like this interest you? 

And if you use facebook, twitter, or pinterest, be sure to check me out and feel free to join the party!

Warrior close-up - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warrior close-up – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warrior doing his routine -Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warrior doing his routine – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warrior Routine among the crowd - Temple Celebration in Lugang (Lukang), Taiwan
Warrior Routine among the crowd – Temple Celebration in Lugang (Lukang), Taiwan
Warriors making their way through the crowd - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warriors making their way through the crowd – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Two Warriors - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Two Warriors – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warriors giving each other 'the stare' - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warriors giving each other ‘the stare’ – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warriors giving each other 'the stare' again - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warriors giving each other ‘the stare’ again – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Staring warriors  - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Staring warriors – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warrior Routine - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Warrior Routine – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance getting started - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance getting started – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (standing tall and sitting down) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (standing tall and sitting down) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Shake, rattle, and roll) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Shake, rattle, and roll) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (moving to the beat of the drums) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (moving to the beat of the drums) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance -  Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Standing up) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Standing up) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Perfect Unison) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Perfect Unison) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Making room) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Making room) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (dancing around) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (dancing around) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (continuing to move to the beat of the drum) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (continuing to move to the beat of the drum) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Close-up) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Close-up) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Standing tall) - Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (Standing tall) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (standing tall with a message of good fortune for the new year) -  Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
Lion Dance (standing tall with a message of good fortune for the new year) – Temple Celebration in Lugang, Taiwan
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34 thoughts on “Dancing Lions and Painted-Face Warriors: A Temple Celebration in Lugang (Lukang), Taiwan [A Photo-Essay]

  1. I never see stuff like this in Mainland China. It seems like Chinese culture is so much better preserved in place such as Taiwan, Malaysia, etc. When I was a kid, this was the kind of thing I imagined seeing in China. Very cool pictures!

    1. Agreed! I have never seen the painted face warriors in China, and I just saw the lion dance once in a wedding. I told my bf that we should have the lion dance in our wedding and he looked at me like if I was crazy. I think many mainlanders still see this as “old stuff that is not interesting at all”. I am glad at least it is being conserved in other places…

    2. @ R Zhao: Thanks and I am glad you enjoyed the photos. I am very surprised to hear that there are no such performances in China. I thought you would see things like this all the time there.

      @ Marta: If you need any ideas of how to incorporate the word ‘xi’ into a wedding and make it cool, then I am your girl because I have some ideas. I even had unity candles, with the word ‘xi’, made in Yinge (a town known for pottery in Taiwan) for our Canadian wedding. 🙂

    1. Yes, the pictures of the warriors are awesome! At least you forget the camera. Can you imagine my disappointment when I get to a place and have forgotten the battery or memory card. It has happened so often that my husband makes me do a check before we ever leave the driveway! 🙂

  2. The warriors are something new to me. Do they appear alongside the lion dances or they are separate performances? I think the only time I have seen humans drawing their faces like that was at the Chinese opera performances on stage.
    Lion dance, yes, they happen all year long, not just during Chinese New Year, but also whenever there is a new Chinese owned shop opening for business 😀

    1. The two times I have seen the warriors, lion dances were involved. First, the warriors would perform and then there would be the lion dance or vice versa. It could be linked to a temple performance rather than just a celebration for Chinese New Year or a business opening.

  3. Constance. Those are certainly wonderful photos taken by your husband. Even with just a smartphone. It is interesting to hear you describe your first lion dance experience – especially when you don’t mention being scared or shocked by the noise. I know many foreigners are, wondering why a Lion Dance show never fails to be so loud and squeeze their ears shut with their hands (the noise is auspiscious, as some of us would know).

    You got to pose with the lions? How lucky! I never knew they liked to pose for photos. Usually after lion dances are over in Melbourne, the lions go straight into hiding!

    1. Actually, I can find the beating of the drums bearable. However, I do find myself holding and covering my ears for dear life when the firecrackers are set off. That is why I can never capture a good photo of it.

      Yes, I did get to take pictures with the lion dancers. They were just hanging around after the performance, probably waiting for their ride to pick them up. And I think they were just as interested in talking to me as I was interested in taking pictures with them. 🙂

      1. Honestly, I too find firecrackers very loud and need to shut my ears – especially those long, long, ceiling-to-floor fire crackers. I’ve tried photographing firecrackers before but my photos all consisted of a lot of smoke. Maybe your husband has more luck 😀

  4. I love your close up pictures!!
    I don’t know if i can call it something similar, but in Cochin I saw a performance in which they also have such a elaborated face paintings. I even join the process of painting the faces and it was a lot of work.

  5. I love how subjective travel is. I can feel your passion for this destination, making me want to know more, learn more! From the glass temple to the lion dance: this is what travel is supposed to be! Something new, and raw and cultural! Great post and imagery!

  6. Wow, I’ve never seen anything like those warriors before. Are they members of the temple, or local people who join in for the event? One of them looked quite young. (The first close up after your main text.) Is there some significance to the warrior show?

    As Mabel mentioned, how awesome that you can take photos of the lions posing with banners! I’m pretty sure they disappear after the show here in Japan as well, but if I make it down to Yokohama’s Chinatown for the new year, I’ll make sure to stick around, just in case they do as well. 🙂

    1. I think they are locals who are just asked to participate. A lot of the participants are quite young – maybe the children of the older temple members.

      I am not really sure of the significance. It is something that usually goes hand-in-hand with a temple celebration. However, I will do some research and get back to you if I find out anything.

  7. Thanks for pointing me this way! Like others have said, the warrior faces are striking and fierce. I would love to see how they create such detail. I wonder if they do it themselves? And I didn’t know Family Mart was in Taiwan! 😀

    1. Yes, there are Family Marts everywhere here but 7-11s far outnumber them.

      I recently stumbled on even cooler warriors performing at a temple celebration. I included some of the photos in my latest post. If you have a look, take note of their awesome eyebrows! 🙂

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