Chinese New Year dragon named after Jasper Wu, boy killed by stray bullet on Oakland freeway

The West Coast Lion Dance Troupe moved to the rhythm of the drum without missing a beat, despite some members not performing for nearly two years due to the pandemic. 

This was the 34th year the group has performed in the Chinese New Year Parade. This year, there was a new attraction: a dragon named for a little boy who was killed suddenly and senselessly.

"The name of the dragon is Jasper named after Jasper Wu who was killed by a stray bullet," said Tony Shiu, who founded the dance troupe in 1988.  

In November, the toddler was caught in the crossfire sitting in a car his mother was driving on a freeway in Oakland.

"His life was so short, not even 2 years on earth," said Shiu. "I want to extend his life."  

ALSO: Thousands line San Francisco streets as Chinese New Year Parade returns

In January, Shiu held a dedication ceremony which Jasper's parents attended. The father signed his name on the Jasper dragon. 

"Whenever we use this dragon, we will always remember him," said Shiu.

The dragon has brought hope to Jasper's family and the community during difficult times, by sharing the joy and color of the Chinese culture.

Establishing the dance troupe over 30 years ago, Shiu passed on his love for the art of Chinese lion dancing to many students, including his two sons.

"This is part of our culture, and we're here to share it with everybody," said Shiu.

"Ever since I could walk, it was the thing that we did," said Kent Shiu, the youngest son. "One of our memories is picking up a laundry basket and pretending it was a lion head, walking around the house, pretending we were lion dancing and performing."  

ALSO: San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade 2022 roars back in style

There was added excitement this year, after the event's cancellation last year due to the pandemic. Community is more important than ever. Roaring back in the Year of the Tiger with the heart of a lion. 

"Almost like doing it from the beginning again," said Derrick, Shiu's oldest son, "Just seeing how the people react, how excited they get whenever we come out."

At a performance at Cogir Assisted Living and Memory Care in Sonoma, Shiu told Chinese folk tales behind the lion dance to this audience.

"Sleeping lion routine. The lions, they drank some wine, got a little tipsy and kinda took a little nap," said Shiu as he explained a dance the troupe had just performed.

He explained the meaning of people giving red envelopes to the lion, and the lion spitting out lettuce at the audience.

Whoever the lettuce hits receives good luck.

"It's a really good feeling to be able to celebrate with everyone in the community and come together with our team is a really big deal," said Nicky Woo, who joined the group 23 years ago as a teenager.

"This is a really big part of my life," said Woo. "It's like a second family to me."

The Chinese New Year Parade was Saturday, Feb. 19 in San Francisco and KTVU will broadcast the event on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.n. Watch it on TV or on 

More stories and videos about the parade and Lunar New Year are here.