Oct , 2019 - Visit to WSH Dragon & Lion Arts Mask Factory

MCG explorers visit to Chinese mask factory ‘WSH Dragon & Lion Arts’

(organised by Matty Colette and Pamela de Lange)

October 14th 15 curious explorers met in Subang to get a detailed explanation on how the lion dance masks are made.

WSH was founded by Master Siow, a lion dancer in his younger years and coach of the famous 1990 World Champion Kun Seng Keng lion dance group. He still coaches lion dance teams in Malaysia and regularly gets invited to train troupes elsewhere in the world.

His children also work in the small factory, each specialises in one the many crafts necessary to complete the one month process of finalising these pieces of art.


Unfortunately Master Siow was not present during our visit but his daughter Michelle who is the manager of the company very kindly and professionally guided us through the whole process.

First they make lion head frame which is a combination of an aluminium base with the rattan shell. The rattan strips are fastened with adhesive tape. Eyes, a combination of wood and plastic, are inserted with different colours for choice. When the shape of the head is completed with the horn it is ready for the next phase.

Then various layers of bamboo paper are glued to the frame. This is sometimes outsourced to women in the neighbourhood for them to earn a few extra ringgits.


The third phase is when the artist comes in. He does the design and calligraphy and often the head is provided with a company logo or good wishes especially around CNY.


Each mask also gets a round mirror placed on the forehead for attracting good luck and fending off bad spirits. After the painting the mask gets sealed with a layer of lacquer and two of Siow’s other daughters attach the fur (sheep and rabbit) and fur balls to finish it off.

The factory produces around 300 masks a year and the cost varies from RM 1000 to RM 3000 depending on the design. The mother of the family makes the costumes the performers wear. The total outfit can cost up to RM 10,000.

Dancers/athletes practice lion dance as a hobby. All money earned is invested again in new outfits for the next year.

During our visit there was plenty of time to roam around and see how the family and colleagues were working on the masks, although it was difficult not to trip over half finished masks, paint and various other materials as the place is very narrow but cosy.


One of the sons gave us a short performance and showed how the ears and eyelids can be operated from inside the mask.

On display were also the drums they use for the performance, some very old masks and the one they use for practicing which is just a bamboo frame to get the same weight as a finished one.


Matty thanked Michelle on behalf of us all and gave a box of various snacks for all staff to share.


Most of us went on for a quick and cheap-cheap lunch in a Chinese buffet restaurant around the corner.

Words Pam de Lange

Photos Matty & Alex Collette