Midterm – Lion Dance


For my midterm project, I would like to create the transitional chinese dragon. What really surprised me is that although I might have thought I have all the parts and files ready, printed out, it may not be assembled as easily. It really takes time to build these figurines and to test out and get familiar with the mechanism. The gears that I used were too flimsy, so I switched it around three times, and still could not get it to work. I started with card stock, and then with thinner paper, and then adding more card stock to the gears. Still, it is not assembled properly and it is unable to work smoothly. For my next approach, I would like to test out thin paper. For the second time, I would be more keen on the methods and materials to assemble this toy.

What I like most about this project (and the class) is the designing part and making things that move and to animate a character.

During the Chinese New Year, it is customary for Chinese Association to perform Lion Dance to communities in a “cai ching” (採青) ritual, where it literally means “plucking the greens”, to red envelopes. It is believed that this quest would bring good luck and fortune to businesses. For my automata, when the Lion gets in contact with an item (e.g. green cabbage, red envelopes), its eyes would grow red and move faster.


Upon the approach of this project, I begin by looking at different mechanisms and especially the course textbooks. One main aspect to consider on this project is the “look and feel” and the functionality of the automata. 

I found a picture as inspiration.


I then start to assemble the drawings onto the template.


Printed, and ready to go!

I have printed this template with inkjet onto large scale paper. You may also separate the parts onto regular print size A4 paper as well. Once it is printed, I have spray glued it onto card stock paper to give it more strength and durability. I then cut out all the parts and start to put it together.

Not as easy…

It is difficult to glue small parts together especially when it is on card stock paper. The card stock paper gave a bit of depth onto the paper itself, so for some parts, the measurements are around 0.2mm – 2mm off… Small, but it makes a big difference when your paper mechanical parts are only 1 cm itself.

I then switched all the mechanical parts with regular print paper, which became too fragile. It did not work well because once the mechanical parts are turning, the parts would found and cripple. Once the mechanics become stuck, the part of lion’s body would not move smoothly, instead it would be stuck.

In Class Critique 

Some ideas suggested to my Lion paper automata is that it could be implanted with Twitter too. Since the transition of the Chinese Lion Dance is for performers to dance around streets to streets to collect red pockets (to spread good luck to the giver), and to collect something green as good luck, for every ” $ ” a person tweets, it would activate the lion to dance.

The design also reminded of sushi, more specifically, the dragon roll.