In this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016 photo, Siow Ho Phiew, 61, center, works on a lion head with his artisan at a warehouse outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As Lunar New Year approaches, lion dance troupes in Malaysia are practicing their coordinated movements in the noisy routine that is believed to ward off evil spirits and garner good luck.(AP Photo/Joshua Paul)
In this Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 photo, Siow Ho Phiew, 61, paints a Buddha mask at a warehouse outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Lion dancing is a centuries-old tradition dating back the Han Dynasty, when lion dancers were mostly from martial arts schools who used their acrobatic kicks and jumps to ring in the new year. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)
He started his endeavor because it was expensive and difficult to import the lion heads from China. After he produced some, his friends started asking him to craft the heads for their lion dance troupes, too.
Siow taught himself the three-step process: making a wooden frame, covering it with papier-mache and painting it to give the lion a personality, depending on the request of the customer.
He also makes the lion’s tail, another key component, and the colorful leggings worn by troupe members who form the animal’s body that writhes during the dance.
It became his full-time job and today Siow exports the beautifully crafted lion costumes all over the world and trains a group of artisans in the art form.
Siow isn’t worried that the tradition will die out.
“This lion dance is a culture. It’s not something new, it dates back for thousands of years,” he said. “I believe that if it is good and beautiful art, I’m sure there will be people who will continue it.”
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