Giant 3D-printed golden dragon highlight of Chingay festival

JOHOR BARU: A giant 3D-printed golden dragon will be “striding” along the streets of Johor Baru during the Johor Ancient Temple Chingay festival this Friday.

The creature’s head and body, fitted on a three-tonne truck, will be one of the floats participating in the century-old festival to mark the end of the Chinese New Year celebration for Johoreans, said Yahya Awal Dragon Dance Troupe assistant head coach Amos Poh.

“It is the Year of the Dragon and our dragon dance troupe’s 50th anniversary this year, so we wanted to do something extraordinary. We wanted to use the latest technology to present something traditional to the audience.

“At first, the idea was met with some resistance from our elders, but they eventually got on board when they saw the 3D mock-up model. I assured them that the dragon head on the float will look exactly like our troupe’s dragon dance prop, which has been with us for more than 30 years,” he said in an interview.

Poh, who has about 28 years’ experience in dragon dancing, said it would also be the troupe’s first participation in the float procession as they usually only performed on foot in previous years.

“We hope to wow the thousands of spectators and devotees along the procession route to boost our spirits as our troupe will be heading to the World Hong Kong Luminous Dragon and Lion Dance Championships on March 7.

“Before this, we won the title three consecutive times in 2012, 2014 and 2016, as the event was organised once every two years,” he said.

Sean Ng, a general manager at the 3D-printing company, said he met Poh over lunch one day and started talking about combining tradition and modern technology.

Ng said it was his team’s first attempt at taking on such a huge project, believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

“We scanned the original dragon dance prop using a special camera to make it into a 3D model, then enlarged it by 20 times to produce one to fit a lorry.

“A total of 88 parts – each measuring 80cm by 80cm – were produced using a 3D printer before fitting them together on a three-tonne truck,” he said, adding that the process, including spray painting the dragon head and tail and installing metal frames to strengthen the foundation, took them about 88 days to complete.

Ng also said he used to participate in dragon dance activities when he was in secondary school, so the project has a high sentimental value for him personally.

Johor Baru Tiong-Hua Association president Ho Sow Tong said the five-day festival started yesterday with a lighting ceremony, while the highlight – the Chingay procession – would be taking place on Friday evening.

“Devotees and spectators can expect to see 13 colourful floats and at least 10 lion and dragon dance troupes parading along the 8km route. There will be many cultural performances moving along the procession while devotees carry the five deities, each from the main dialect clans of Hokkien, Cantonese, Hainan, Hakka and Teochew, for an annual ‘tour’ to bless the city and its people,” he said.

The day after the lighting ceremony, a “street-cleaning” ritual would be conducted to symbolically cleanse the procession route to make way for the five deities, which are brought on foot to the Xing Gong temple, where they are temporarily placed before the procession.

The Chingay Festival is celebrated by the Chinese community in Johor Baru from the 19th to the 22nd day of the Chinese New Year.

Johor Baru South Deputy OCPD Supt Lim Jit Huey said about 1,500 policemen would be on duty at 13 hotspots on the day of the procession.

“Roads in the city centre will be closed in stages throughout the festival, so the public should plan their journey accordingly,” he said, adding that the affected roads were listed on the Johor Baru South police Facebook page.

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