Founded in 1986, the Wong People Kung Fu Association is an organization dedicated to practicing the Jow Ga style of traditional kung fu. The group, directed by Sifu Raymond Wong, offers kung fu and tai chi classes in the Washington, D.C., area and produces an annual tournament.
The Wong People also perform the lion dance, which they will demonstrate at the 2017 Folklife Festival. For centuries, pairs of martial artists have dressed as lions, prancing and leaping to the pounding beat of drums and clashing cymbals amid exploding fire crackers. The lions welcome the New Year, and they launch new events and open ceremonies—their ferocity and acrobatics drive away evil spirits and assure good fortune. Today, the lion dance connects Chinese Americans to ancient traditions of martial arts and with Chinese communities throughout the world.
The Wong People lion team performs in the traditional Southern China-style, and they are as much at home in formal venues like the White House or Kennedy Center as they are in intimate and traditional processions to Chinese American homes and businesses on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
Raymond Wong is a longtime resident of D.C. His family immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in the 1950s, and he has been a firsthand observer of the changes, including gentrification, that have transformed the city’s historical Chinese American communities. He began training in kung fu in the 1970s in Chinatown with Sifu Dean Chin. Chin was known for being inclusive about who he trained—welcoming students from different ethnic backgrounds provided they demonstrated commitment to the tradition. The Wong People continues this practice, reflecting the diversity of the D.C. area.
At the Festival, the Wong People will demonstrate and discuss the meaning and skills involved in their lion dance performances on July 3. Their session is co-presented with the 1882 Foundation.