With the new year coming up I decided it was time to purchase my first Lion. I’ve seen a number lions of various qualities that our school has ordered over the years, so I have a reasonable idea of what dictates quality. However, living in Arizona, I have limited access to local Lion Dance equipment vendors so, naturally, I turned to ordering one online. From my research, EMPLION seemed to offer the most variety at the low prices and offers free, express shipping on most purchases even though they are located in Singapore. This initially seemed too good to be true since it was going to cost my 师父 ~$150 USD to ship a lion from San Francisco. I later learned that my 师叔 had ordered from EMPLION and was satisfied with their traditional futsan lions. I decided to give them a shot.
Online Store / Interface
The sections of their website are not entirely intuitive. From what I can gather the traditoinal lion, futsan, hoksan, and fok hok sections are lists of those style lions that they regularly order / have in stock. Lions and equipment that are actually for sale are located on the pages titled online store, special deals, equipment, and 1 (yes, that’s actually the name of the page). For a couple weeks I didn’t look at the equipment and 1 pages since I assumed all of the lions were either in the online store or special deals sections. Not only that, but you can actaully find special deal lions/sets on all of the 4 sections.
Most of the items for sale on their site can be purchased at discounted prices for various reasons (listed under said item) such as requesting standard shipping (instead of express). However, there are usually no paypal buttons to accomodate said discounts and I’m still not certain how one should go about purchasing at some of the discounted or promotional prices.
Support / Shipping
I decided to purchase 15) White Fur Silver Black Red Hoksan (Special Deal) on the online store page with a pair of Metalwood Drumsticks. I emailed their support address and listed the items I would like to order to confirm they were both in stock and would be shipped at least 20 days before the new year. Joshua (their main support contact), responded after about 2 days and informed me that they would ship the day after they were ordered.
I placed the order by clicking on the paypal button under my lion of choice and added a note about the drumsticks in the PayPal comments section (since they were supposed to be included for free but the actual PayPal button led me to an order request that mentioned nothing about them). I received a confirmation about 24 hours after submitting my purchase, but no tracking information. I emailed Joshua asking if there would be any tracking information provided and he replied in another 24 hours saying there would be. He also informed me that they were backed up due to the holidays and my shipment had been slightly delayed. I received said tracking information about 5 days later (2 days after it had been shipped). All in all, it took about a week for my lion to actually ship. Understandable with the number of sales they must have around the new year, but definitely something to be aware of. I can’t speak for how speedy their support and shipping is during any other time of the year, but I’d guess it would be faster.
Shipping / Packaging
The package was sent from Singapore on 2009-01-09 and arrived in Tempe, Arizona on 2009-01-16. Definitely express.
I already had some paranoid concerns about the shape in which the lion would actually arrive which only got worse when I saw the box.
Even though the box was covered with “fragile” stickers, it seemed to have been dropped from a reasonable height. I opened the box to find some… innovating… packaging.
The lion was shipped without any extra padding–the lion pants and tail were strategically wrapped around the lion head to protect it from any bumps. I still don’t entirely understand the physics of how this worked, but it seemed to do the trick.
In the end the lion arrived in one piece and almost as depicted. Some colors are slightly different (some reds became orange, others became black). If/when ordering from EMPLION I would definitely want to confirm the little details if they are important. Fortunately, I actually like the differences in how the lion actually looks compared to how it was displayed on their site.
In the end I took the lion to the school for some show-and-tell and a brief test drive
I’ll probably update again shortly with some more details on the quality of the lion.