6 YEARS AGO, during Choy Li Fut practice, my Sifu brought in a battered lion. The history behind it was unknown, and it was bandaged with duct tape. The eyes were almost shut, making it look like its life was over. Little fur was left, and the surface of the lion was wrinkled and faded. I was 11 years old and my heart cried for the poor lion. I could not do anything about it, so I just let it be.
Three years later, I joined the San Francisco Wushu Team, and met Jared Young. As time passed, he became my inspiration for the art of lion building. He let me papier mache a frame that was partially done, and taught me other aspects of the art. Later on, I met Corey Chan, who became another one of my biggest inspirations. I was shocked looking at the lions he restored and built. The detail and creativity was AMAZING! I asked him for advice and tips to start my journey in the art. Armed with this training, I asked my Sifu to let me restore his sad bandaged lion. He handed it to me with no hesitation.
I started the project by taking off all the ornamentation (almost none was left), then ripping off the paper. To my surprise, the paint stained my fingers—it wasn’t water proof. The ears were also missing, and the mouth was
warped. Bamboo pieces were broken, joints were loose, and the wire decorations were all warped. It was a disaster! The project was going to be tough.
After fixing the frame with electrical tape and binding paper, I decided to build a new horn. The old one didn’t look aggressive enough and was falling apart. With wire, rattan, lots of hot glue, and tape, I made a completely new horn. After this step, I papered the frame. This was the most monotonous and time-consuming task. After two long weeks, I finished papering the lion. Next was the most fun part of all— painting!
Step after step, I finally finished the lion. It was reborn, but still contained all the memories my Sifu had with it. I was relieved! It does not look excellent, but I feel that it’s decent for my first complete restoration.
Using everything I learned while doing this project, and everything I will be learning, I will continue to restore lions and have fun in the process!