in the land of Chinese New Year (moved from Faraway tree blog)
There was a slithering sound and the rasp of many scales against a hard surface, followed by a series of thuds as several sets of feet landed on the ground. "Are you sure this is the right day?" asked a peevish voice, "because I'm so stiff I don't think I could climb back up", it continued. "Yes, of course, I'm sure", replied another voice. "You know as well as I do that the temple has been a hive of activity for the last couple of days." "Can't you see all the red lanterns everywhere?" chimed in a third voice, just for good measure." "And didn't you smell all those wonderful roast chickens that were offered this morning?" asked the second voice. "Oh well, if you are quite sure ...." and the first voice tailed off.
While they had been talking there had been more sounds of scratching scales and thuds. Finally, against the glowing backdrop of the altar appeared a curious procession. The ornately carved temple dragons had uncoiled themselves from the columns around which they had spent the whole of the previous year in immobility and were assembling in the main courtyard of the temple. A curious chinking noise announced the arrival of the little ceramic dragons, which had left their places in the landscapes above the lintels, and these were soon joined by the wind dragons which breezed in from the roof tops.
One of the temple monks, who understood the language of dragons, had heard them muttering amongst themselves that it wasn't fair that only the golden dragons embroidered on the special parasols ever got to see the famous lion dances that took place on the pier every year. The monk had taken pity on them and suggested that they slough their skins and leave them attached to the columns so that no one would suspect that they had abandoned their posts. When all the festivities were over they could all climb back and would look as if they had been given a spring clean in honour of the new year.
Thus it was, that they now crept along in the shadows towards the pier where they hoped to pass unnoticed, by attaching themselves to the portable shrine, which had been set up.
Hundreds of people, adults and children alike, had gathered in expectation. Not just members of the local Chinese community but there were plenty of 'farangs' (foreigners) as well, eager to see how the Chinese New Year was celebrated. The festivities commenced with the explosion of hundreds of firecrackers and bits of red paper flew through the air, accompanied by sparks, smoke and loud bangs. The first spectacle of the evening was the ritualistic fight between the red and black and the white lions.
The white lion won, of course, and decided to show off by jumping to great heights and by leaping along a series of columns of different heights.
At times it pretended to lose its balance and fall off, which prompted gasps from the crowd.
It batted its massive eyelids at the crowd to invite people to feed it money and opened its mouth to receive these gifts.
When someone was foolish enough to "feed" it a chrysanthemum flower, it spat out a shower of petals in disgust. Its antics completed, it jumped to the ground and paraded around begging more money from the onlookers.
Acrobats then took to the floor forming human pyramids of five people, with a small child at the top. This was followed by the explosion into the night of a spectacular firework display.
Then came the highlight of the evening. The huge figure of a dragon covered in thousands of small lights was lifted off the ground by the acrobats and coiled around a pillar.
From here the acrobats manipulated the dragon's movements. A boy, mounted on a bamboo pole, taunted the dragon with a ball in a round wicker frame (a representation of the flaming pearl perhaps?). Sometimes the acrobats carrying this pole allowed it to fall backwards towards the ground in play, but stood it up again for the dragon to devour.
Content at having seen all this, the dragons enjoyed hitching a lift back to the temple on the portable shrine.
Once back they hid in the shadows of the grounds until all was silent. Thereupon they threw the sloughed skins away and regained their usual places resplendent in the "new" colours, where they could dream upon the things they had seen until the coming of the next new year.