Johor Sultan graces the Johor Chingay

Shouts of “Daulat Tuanku” rang out along with “Huat ah! Heng ah!” when the Johor Chingay street parade marched past the grandstand where the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, viewed the annual tradition of the Johor Gu Miao last night.

Sultan Ibrahim beating the drum to launch the
Johor Chingay street parade
Flanked by Menteri Besar Johor, Datuk Mohamed Khalid Nordin, Johor executive councilor, Datuk Tee Siew Kiong and Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association chairman, Datuk Seri Tey Kim Chai, the Johor Sultan beat a drum to launch the Johor Chingay parade.

Tey thanked the Johor ruler for gracing this year’s street parade as his presence was significant to the Chinese community.  Tey also echoed the sultan’s previous calls for Bangsa Johor to unite and continue to work together for the success of the state.

The monkey god was widely featured in the deco
on the floats in Johor Chingay 2016
He said the annual tradition of the Johor Chingay was making an impact globally, particularly to China, a nation which lost most of its cultural heritage after the Cultural Revolution.

Although the Johor Sultan witnessed the Johor Chingay street parade in 2006 while he was the Crown Prince, this was the first time he had attended as the as the Johor ruler.

A souvenir book on the history of this annual tradition of the Johor Gu Miao or Johor Old Temple, published by the JB Tiong Hua Association was presented to the Johor ruler by Tey.

Sultan Ibrahim receiving the souvenir book on Johor Chingay *
Festival organizer, the JB Tiong Hua Association for the Johor Old Temple, has continued with this annual tradition since the 19th century without interruption except once during the Japanese invasion in 1942.

While the festival originated as a religious tradition where the temple deities are taken on an annual “tour” to bless the city with peace and harmony, good weather for the cultivation of gambier and to celebrate good harvests, it has evolved into a cultural carnival and award-winning tourist attraction.

Sultan Ibrahim stole the hearts of the rakyat when he
reciprocated with the "heart" sign as they called out
to him, "Daulat Tuanku!"
While waiting for the street parade to reach the grandstand on Jalan Wong Ah Fook, the sultan and other guests enjoyed cultural dance performances and a skillful display by the award-winning dragon dance troop from Jalan Yahya Awal.

Roads in the city were closed for dragon dancers, lion dancers, stilt-walkers and giant flag bearers who showed off their skills while some 40,000 participants and spectators admired the gaily decorated floats that featured the legendary monkey king.

In spite of the pressing crowd, there was a spirit of camaraderie as the Johor ruler stole the hearts of the rakyat when he returned they waves and reciprocated with the “heart” sign as they called out “Daulat Tuanku!”

The celebration which started five days ago with a lighting ceremony at Xing Gong, a temporary shrine at Jalan Ulu Ayer Molek, and peaked with the street parade last night, ends today when the deities are returned to the temple after their annual outing.

* Photo credit: MAGistrate online media

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insider on 29 February 2016

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