JB's Chingay tradition

A float designed with mountain goats in the theme
for the Year of the Goat, 2015
The Cantonese phrase, yan san yan hoi, literally translates into “people mountain, people sea,” and aptly describes the huge crowd of people that thronged the streets of Johor Baru in the evening of March 11.  

Once again, as in previous years, the local community turned out in full force to experience the JB Chingay parade.  Traffic was at a virtual stand-still when the main streets of the city closed for this annual religious procession.

A section of the crowd near
JB City Square on March 11
Since the JB Chingay was honoured as the Best Domestic Event in the 2009 Johor Tourism Awards event and recognised as a National Cultural Heritage in 2012, it has become a major tourist attraction.  This spectacular show has been held on such a grand scale that it has even attracted foreign media coverage and filmed by the Teochew Broadcasting channel for screening in China.  This year, the JB Chingay parade was also documented by the Phoenix Channel from Hong Kong!

The section of Jalan Wong Ah Fook, in front of JB City Square was where the parade usually pauses for a performance to thrill the VIPs seated on a platform.  The crowd gathered here was understandably as spectacular as the show they watched.  They would have noticed an industrial crane parked in front of Plaza Seni with a TV crew in the aerial platform filming the passing parade.  In fact, drones were also seen flying above!

Most of our former schoolmates have moved to live in Singapore, East Malaysia and elsewhere abroad so when Elizabeth shared her photos and said, “I watched the parade from start to the end!” it triggered a reminiscing chat about the JB Chingay.
A camera crew filming an aerial view of the JB Chingay!
Those living abroad compared the number of years since they last saw the parade - the highest number being 26 years and 33 years ago – and after they have viewed the photos, commented about how much it has changed.  

For the uninitiated, the JB Chingay parade is an annual tradition of the Johor Ancient Temple or Rofu Gu Miao that has been kept in this city since the 1800’s without any interruption except during the Japanese invasion in 1942.

A close-up of the head of the dragon designed with
a body of reflecting mirrors

“It brings back childhood memories,” said Jennifer who noticed that the acts in this year’s Chingay seemed so sophisticated.  That was because besides the traditional dragon and lion dances, various associations have created new-look dragons and lions, as well as attractive sets on the floats to impress the audience.  For instance, one of the dragons was designed with plastic mirrors that reflected an eye-catching range of lights as its body undulated with every movement!

Looks like a fun new toy; Riding
on carriages with two big wheels!
Jenny, who now lives in Singapore, marveled at how much the Chingay has changed since she last saw it in 1976.  She said it was nowhere near such a spectacular show. 

When Jennifer said that she was so proud that the JB Chingay has been keeping its tradition and attracting so much media attention, Elizabeth commented that security was very tight.  In fact, she noticed that a man was detained and hauled into a police van!  I’m so glad that security was tight especially as criminals could take advantage of the large crowds to get up to mischief.

In the morning of March 12, traffic police were on hand to divert traffic at several road junctions to facilitate the parade that would send the deities back into the temple.  This was a comparatively short parade where one side of Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (formerly part of Jalan Ngee Heng) was closed to vehicular traffic to let the procession take a direct route from the Xin Kong shrine to Jalan Ngee Heng and onward to Jalan Trus where the temple is situated.  

A pair of prancing lions with big-headed doll, designed in luminous fabric that glowed-in-the-dark!
Traditional lion dances was still very much part of the parade
Devotees shouting, "Huat ah!" as they carry
a sedan chair with a temple deity!

This shorter parade officially marked the close of the lunar new year celebrations in Johor Baru.  Of course, this does not include the appreciation parties held by individual Chinese associations to thank the members for their support and participation to kick the Year of the Goat off together for greater abundance and prosperity.  

Life in the Chinese community would go back to normal for the next twelve months until preparations start again to usher in the next lunar year, with celebrations complete with the proud tradition of the JB Chingay.


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