My name is Cai. I am an illustrator and myself an active lion dancer with the Chinese Youth League Lion and Dragon Dance of Australia in Sydney, Australia. I wasn’t always a part of a team, but I was always a lion dancer.

I’m your typical Chinese offspring from migrant HK parents. I carried rice for lunch in thermal insulated food flasks while the other kids had sandwiches. I was studying hard to be a either a doctor or a lawyer, to make my parents proud and eventually give them a big house we could all live happily in. Ultimately, I committed the cardinal sin of pursuing a career in the arts. I’m still working on the house thing.

While I can’t speak a word of Cantonese, I was always fascinated by my heritage. Ever since my first frightful encounter with the banging drums and clashing cymbals as I kid, I could never get lion dancing out of my head. I hopped online trying to find any kind of resource or information about this esoteric art, but such resources are scarce, especially in English, and it frustrated me.

I always envied those that had a team they could call family; I thought that wasn’t the life for me. In spite of that, I pursued that sports team dream throughout my schooling years. I joined my high school badminton and table tennis team, competing against other schools in the district. It was only several years out of high school did I have that fateful encounter with a bonafide lion dancer, who was also an artist. Lion dancers aren’t fairy tales, they’re real people.

I joined my team back in 2016 and I have not stopped since. They welcomed me and they taught me more than just lion dancing. They taught me how to be human.

In 2018, my wildest dreams came true. My team gave me the opportunity to compete. We entered the MGM International Lion Dance Competition in Macau. I competed as the lion tail and together, we took home the Championship win in the Females Traditional Division. We returned to compete again in 2019, and will continue to do so into the future.

I knew this was to be my life’s work – to serve the community that gave me so much. I have since dedicated much of my life to practising and promoting the Lion Dance through my profession as a visual artist.

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Illustrations and artwork by Cai Tse.