Watch: Schoolchildren thrilled by traditional Chinese lion dance

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  • St John’s College has been celebrating Chinese New Year for decades
  • Chinese students have been boarding at the school since 1940s
  • Have put on traditional lion dance since 2004
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TO THE crashing of cymbals and the beat of a drum, two huge Chinese lions and a laughing Buddha thrilled children at St John’s College.

The Southsea school invited others in the area to join in the celebrations marking the start of the Year of the Monkey.

Lions and Laughing Buddha with St John's pupils, from left, Harvey Cheng, Amelia Bayley, Callum Westcott, Lois Huntingdon and Sam Leung ''Picture: Francesca Williams

Lions and Laughing Buddha with St John's pupils, from left, Harvey Cheng, Amelia Bayley, Callum Westcott, Lois Huntingdon and Sam Leung ''Picture: Francesca Williams

St John’s, in Grove Road South, has a long tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year due to the high number of Chinese pupils.

The first overseas Chinese boarder attended the school in 1949 and Steve Bedingham, who looks after the international students, has been teaching children about the tradition for more than a decade.

Lion dances are held each Chinese New Year to symbolise the lion brought in to scare off a beast which was plaguing villages.

Before the exciting dance children from the nursery classes had a Chinese arts and crafts session where they made Chinese lanterns.

The noise made it really exciting and it really went with the actions. The costumes were amazing

Callum Westcott

With the help of school pupils wearing elaborate masks, Mr Bedingham told the story of how each year is symbolised by one of 12 animals.

Then it was the turn of Year 13 pupils wearing two huge lion costumes to do the traditional lion dance.

Year 6 pupil Lois Huntingdon said: ‘It was so good.

‘I liked it when they came out, went up the ramp and jumped off.

‘It was really exciting. They must have spent ages practising because it was a complicated dance.

‘The lions started spewing out lettuce. The music made it really exciting.’

And fellow Year 6 pupil Callum Westcott said: ‘The noise made it really exciting and it really went with the actions.

‘The costumes were amazing.’

Last night the senior school boarders enjoyed their own celebration with another lion dance, a traditional banquet and music from international students.

Mr Bedingham said: ‘We have a very long tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year because we have had lots of Chinese boarders.

‘I believe our first was in 1949 and he went on to become a priest.

‘In 20014 a local group donated our orange costume and that is how it all started.

‘From one year to the next we get the next year group involved.’