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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Johor Bahru Chinese Temple Festival 新山游神

Introducing this special Chinese New Year event in Johor Bahru, which falls on 23rd Feb (wed) night this year 2011. The Lunar new year 2011 officially ended on the 15th, but the Johor Bahru Chinese community is so uniquely celebrating Lunar New Year for 22days !

Johor Bahru Chinese Temple Festival,or Chingay procession- As the name implies, is a festival uniquely held at Johor Bahru, the Malaysia’s southern gateway.

Johor Bahru Chinese considers the end of the Chinese New Year period only after the Temple Festival. So this could be titled as “The world longest celebration period of Chinese New Year.” 
Chinese Version of this article 本文中文版

When I first read from the press about this JB Chinese Temple back in 4 or 5 years, I was so amazed that the JB Chinese community still celebrates in such a traditional way.

During my first year of stay in Singapore, I recalled such a special event in JB, which crowd of participants as many as compared to Kuala Lumpur’s Thaipusam Festival.

And out of my surprise, one of my colleagues from Johor Bahru, celebrated Temple Festival every year, and never missed any in the past 5 years.

Since he got so many “lobang”, he managed to get me a uniform of the event- to protect me from the bad people  , as I have a lot of brothers and sisters on the street.

Last 2 years, the JB chinese temple festival was fall on weekend, which left me no reason skipping to join such a happening event just across the Johore Strait. It’s even best as the event was at night, less hot compared to day time.

Getting to know from my friend that, it is “confirmed” won’t be raining during the Festival. Actually I felt suspicious on this saying, but believe it or not, last year when it rain 1 hour before the event officially started, but rain stopped just 15minute before!

The good thing about this Temple Festival is to experience the Johor Bahru city view at night. Something like exporing Johor Bahru.

JB Chinese Temple Festival is a proud of JB Chinese community, where this event was hold by the 5 dialect group- Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka and Hainan for a period of hundred years already! If we understand the Malaysian Chinese history, we know that during the 20s,30s era, different dialect groups were almost like different races, but yet the JB Chinese community could harmonically hold the festival, it was a superb bonding that tie each of the group.

My friend is Teochew, so their uniform is in white color, though I’m not Teochew, but I was during the festival. :p

Only people wearing the uniform that able to get closer to the 5 gods, And the believers will shout “Heng ar, Heng ar, Heng ar” (or Hokkien’s “Huat ar Huat ar Huat ar”, which mean prosperity) all the way during the parade.

The parade start from the the temple in the JB Chinese Cemetary, which is opposite to Danga Bay Citymall around 6pm. The believers will carry the 5 god statues which represent the 5 dialect groups round the JB city, thus in Chinese, this event is called the JB God parade.

Out of these 5 god statues, there is only 1 god cabin is not allowed to be swinged, that is god represents the Teochew group. During the parade, the leaders will keep shouting to the crowd:”must not swing must not swing”, to pay highest respect to this god.

While the god represent the Hokkien group, is the one being swinged the craziest. You can have a look on below video I captured:

Seeing the surrounding, it seems white-colored shirts (Teochew) were the majority , followed by pink (Hokkien), Orange (Cantonese), Light Orange (Hakka) and Yellow (Hainan). I think this more or less represent the composition of Chinese dialect group in Johor Bahru.

And only during the JB Chinese Temple Festival , you get to see so many people are on the street watching or joining the God Parade. Some of the resident also put tables full of offerings in front of their houses.

It’s an event full of Malaysian cultural fiesta, so I strongly recommend you could spend a night to experience the event.

Dragon Dance
24 season drums

Big flag (I thought only can see it in Penang)

I would recommend you all to stand near to the OCBC branch (best if in front of the Hainan Association) to watch the parade because here is just next to the sea, less hot compared to the central stage which is just in front of Public Bank Branch/Citysquare.

Hope you all enjoy the parade ! Huat arr!

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