Regent of Johor adds to festivities at Chingay celebration

Royal guests: Tunku Ismail, flanked by his children on stage, watching the passing procession during the Chingay celebration in Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Baru. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: Chingay is already a lively event, but in Johor, the occasion was further enlivened by the presence of Regent of Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim, who brought along his two children, much to the delight of attendees of the century-old Johor Ancient Temple Chingay procession here.

Loud cheers could be heard as the Regent arrived at the Gong Ying stage in Jalan Wong Ah Fook here with his son Raja Muda Johor Tunku Iskandar and his daughter Tunku Khalsom Aminah.

Johor Baru Tiong-Hua Association president Ho Sow Tong said Tunku Ismail’s appearance was an honour as the Chingay procession was a significant event for the Chinese community.

“The Chingay procession concluded the Chinese New Year celebrations for Johoreans. It is unique because the festive season is typically celebrated until Chap Goh Meh or the 15th day of the lunar calendar.

“We did not expect Tunku Ismail to bring along the young prince and princess to the event, but we are glad to see them enjoying themselves,” he said when interviewed.

He added that the Royals, dressed in festive red colours, took to the purpose-built stage at around 8.40pm on Friday.

“They spent more than an hour enjoying cultural performances such as a traditional Chinese dance and lion dance on high stilts, and also saw the devotees carrying the deities on palanquins,” Ho said.

The Royals were seen smiling and waving at the passing procession, made up of performers, colourful floats and devotees on foot who shouted “Heng ah, ong ah, huat ah!” (good luck, fortune and prosperity) as well as Daulat Tuanku.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi, state health and environment committee chairman Ling Tian Soon, and Chinese ambassador to Malaysia Ouyang Yujing were among the dignitaries sharing the stage with the Royals.

After Tunku Ismail sounded the drums to officiate the event, Ho presented him with a painting of a dragon as a souvenir in conjunction with the Year of the Dragon.

As the Regent departed from the stage, he stood and waved at the crowd from the sunroof of his vehicle.

Tunku Ismail had previously accompanied his father to watch the Chingay procession when the Ruler was the guest of honour.

This was Tunku Ismail’s first time attending the event as the Regent of Johor.

The procession, which started and ended at the Xin Gong Temple in Jalan Ulu Ayer Molek here, moved along an 8km route where devotees also carried the palanquins housing five deities, each from the main dialect clans of the Hokkien, Cantonese, Hainan, Hakka and Teochew for an annual “tour” to bless the city and its people.

The Chinese community in Johor Baru celebrates the Chingay Festival from the 19th to the 22nd day of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 27 until March 2 this year.

Meanwhile, Ling said the Johor government has allocated RM200,000 to fund the Chingay festival.

“Chingay has been held for more than 150 years and has become a unique part of the state’s history. We hope that it will be carried on for years to come,” he added.

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