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Hakka Lion Dance Performer | Chang Jian-an

  • Date:2017-04-25
Hakka Lion Dance Performer | Chang Jian-an

  • Chinese Name: 張健銨
  • Born: 1944
  • Birthplace: Hsinchu County (Northern Taiwan)
  • Did You Know That …?
  • As a teenager, Chang Jian-an used to perform the Hakka lion dance from house to house in his traditional Hakka village during the Chinese New Year to earn some pocket money.

Chang Jian-an is a traditional Hakka lion dance performer and founder of the Hsinchu Hakka Lion Dance Cultural Association (新竹縣客家武獅文化協會). He is credited with fostering the Taiwanese public's understanding and interest in the unique lion dance of the Hakka people.

The Hakka lion dance is a unique form of lion dance introduced to Taiwan by immigrants from China during the Qing dynasty. Unlike Chinese lion dance, the Hakka version requires martial arts and incorporates elements of theater, dance, and music. Once reserved for celebrating Chinese New Year and temple festivals, it is now performed to bring good fortune at opening events for new stores and Hakka cultural fairs.

Chang, who grew up during turbulent times in post-retrocession Taiwan, started to practice martial arts from an early age to defend against raiding bandits. The combative knowledge he acquired later served as an important foundation for his Hakka lion dance performances.

After completing compulsory military service, Chang stopped performing the Hakka lion dance for over three decades as public interest waned. The performance art declined rapidly due to the swift economy growth of the 1960s, a period when young people chose to work in factories over traditional vocations.

In 2006, Chang was invited by Hakka TV to introduce the Hakka lion dance, prompting him to pick up martial arts and the traditional performance again. To revitalize Hakka folk culture, Chang founded the Hsinchu Hakka Lion Dance Cultural Association and formed the "Von Pang Shi (全棚獅)” troupe.

The troupe started participating in competitions across Taiwan and won top prizes every year, which brought more attention to the Hakka lion dance style. However, the hardships entailed in the process of acquiring martial arts made many people reluctant to learn such performances.

So Chang and his uncle Chang Shih-fu (張石富), a fellow Hakka lion dance veteran, began to offer free martial arts training and lion dance courses in his hometown. Chang even turned his old house into a cultural center to introduce the history and culture of Hakka lion dance.

Visitors to the center can try their hand at making the Hakka lion head, and tour a nearby traditional Hakka village to learn more about Hakka culture. Chang hopes that in the process of reviving this unique lion dance style, the Hakka community will also become empowered and motivated to actively preserve its traditional values and culture.