Traditional Welcome for President Hu Jintao of China
Celebrity performances are always a great way of raising the profile of martial arts in the UK and celebrity parties don’t get much bigger than a state banquet for the president of China, hosted by Her Majesty The Queen and HRH Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace! It was therefore a great honour that my ancestor Master Ang Lian Huat’s association, Nam Yang Pugilistic Association, was asked to be the ones representing Her Majesty’s hospitality toward President Hu.
Nam Yang’s Lion and Dragon dancers who sweated to ensure an auspicious meeting between Her Majesty The Queen and HRH Prince Philip’s state banquet for China’s President Hu
Clearly events like this constitute a coming together of East and West. Martial arts, like Feng Shui, Accupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, are great examples of Eastern culture being adopted and valued in the West and it is great to see martial arts groups being invited to demonstrate their skills to celebrate such occasions.
Lion and Dragon Dances are traditionally performed only by Kung Fu troupes and bring luck and prosperity. They are a must to welcome celebrities and V.I.P.s.
Although “Nam Yang” in the name of my ancestor’s association refers to the South Seas where it was born, it is today one of the most respected Kung Fu Associations in Europe having been one of the few to begin teaching the inner secrets to non-Chinese students. That trust is clearly shown in Her Majesty The Queen’s choice of them to symbolically show the current increasing understanding between East and West in representing Britain’s welcome to China
My ancestor’s Kung Fu club is one of the oldest in the world. Nam Yang Pugilistic Association is well recognised as one of Britain’s foremost Kung Fu groups with a continually expanding portfolio of celebrity performances including Prince Edward, Ken Hom, Fern Britain/Philip Shoefield, Ken Livingstone and Gloria Huniford to name but a few. Nam Yang always perform at the big Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar Square, displaying Chinese martial arts and Qi Gong as well as Lion and Dragon dance. They regularly represent Britain in international competition.
Angela (centre) with Grandmaster Tan Soh Tin (right) and Master Iain Armostrong (left) surrounded by the members of Nam Yang who performed an auspicious dance to wish Her Majesty The Queen well on Her Jubilee Celebrations in Bushey Park, 2002.
The events outside the palace kicked off with a parade down the Mall by two dragons – one on either side – supported by the association’s lions and banners. This was actually featured on BBC2’s ‘Have I Got News For You’ although the presenter had problems reading the word ‘Pugilistic’. And we thought that they were all supposed to be clever on that programme!
The main performance took place on a rather posh looking grassy area just in front of the palace. It lasted a full hour with lions and dragons alternating over that time. Five lions or two dragons performed at any one time to traditional music played on drum, cymbals and gong. During this time President Hu arrived with the Royals, as did the numerous guests for the state banquet – mostly politicians and ambassadors, although it was impossible to get close to them because of extremely tight police security measures.
Imaging a 20 foot dragon writhing around as it rears up before you? Yeah, these guys look scary!
The performance was originally scheduled for late morning as President Hu and the Queen travelled from Houseguards Parade, down the Mall to the palace in the Royal Coach. Fortunately someone had the sense to realise that if dragons panicked the horses drawing the Royal Coach, a major diplomatic incident might ensue!
The event was sponsored by the London Chinatown Association who work closely with the Chinese Embassy to promote Chinese culture and interests in the UK. They generously laid on a Chinese banquet for the performers after the event, many of whom had travelled in from Nam Yang martial arts groups as far a field as Marlborough, Portsmouth and Brighton.
Master Iain Armstrong, two times world Kung Fu champion and head of Nam Yang’s UK branch explained the significance of activities such as this:
“Lion and Dragon dances are taken extremely seriously in the traditional Chinese martial arts community. To be the group chosen to perform for the President of China is a huge honour. Absolutely massive! We take our lions and dragons extremely seriously. Each is inbued with it’s own spirit in an eye dotting ceremony – some details of which we do not reveal. They bring great luck and energy , you might call it ‘lucky chi’. Performances like this stir up great energy and some of this energy sticks with the lions and dragons – making them extra lucky – and with our club. So we should do really well in the near future!”
Two of the Nam Yang Lion Dancers take a moment at ease after a gruelling hour long performance – make sure you get to see the next public spectacle when they perform for Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square!
To see Nam Yang perform live, why not attend the Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar Square on January 29th 2006? The action will start late morning with a parade down Charing Cross Road. The big dragon dance usually takes place shortly after midday. The whole event is free, so you can’t loose!
Check out the Nam Yang website at www.namyang.co.uk or to contact Nam Yang direct call 01372725918