PETALING JAYA: What does “Gong Xi Fa Cai” actually mean? Where does “yee sang” come from? Why are lion and dragon dances performed and what do they represent?
These were some of the questions posed during the “Chinese New Year Culture, Beliefs and Tradition” talk at Menara Star here yesterday.
Universiti Malaya's Chinese Studies department senior lecturer Prof Dr Yam Kah Kean said “Gong Xi Fa Cai” literally meant “congratulations on getting more wealth”, which he said might not have a strong representation of the Chinese New Year spirit.
“Some believe the term focuses more on material gains than the spirit of togetherness, so they prefer to say Xin Nian Kuai Le', which simply means Happy New Year,” he said.
At the talk, Dr Yam also explained some common customs and traditions related to the festival, including the significance of lion and dragon dances.
“The lion dance is to cast away ill omens, while the dragon dance is to create and receive auspiciousness,” he pointed out. “Music and fireworks are mainly to give the celebration a festive air.”
An ordained Taoist priest and the Taoist Association of Malaysia president, Dr Yam also fielded questions on Chinese religious and customary practices.
He explained that “yee sang”, a dish popular in Malaysia for the festivities, originated here as China and other countries did not highlight the dish during the celebrations.
“Yee sang contains a variety of colours; mixing them together represents a joyous mood.
“It is believed that by eating this dish, one partakes in a joyful celebration,” he said.
On the possibility of tradition and culture losing its impact on the modern generation, Dr Yam said it was important for Chinese customs to be preserved, but some taboos could be optional.
“It is up to them,” he said.
“They should adhere to the taboos if these affect their perception, but they can ignore them if they remain unfazed by the supposed repercussions.” > The talk is an ongoing series of talks on the faith and celebrations of Malaysians for The Star staff.