The faces of Chingay 2013

24 02 2013

If anyone reading this appears in any of the photographs below (or in this album), I would be pleased to extend a higher resolution copy of the photograph to you if you can drop me an email.


Photographs from what was certainly a feast for the senses, Chingay 2013, which was held at the F1 Pit Building over two evenings on 22 and 23 February 2013. The annual event, touted as “Asia’s Grandest Street Parade”  is organised the People’s Association. In its current incarnation, Singapore’s Chingay was conceived as a street parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year in 1973 in the wake of the ban on the tradition of letting off fireworks, the parade has evolved over the years into the spectacular celebration of Singapore’s rich multi-ethnic mix and includes participants from many other countries. The event wouldn’t have been a success if it wasn’t also for the efforts of many participants and volunteers, to whom this post is dedicated to:

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The spirit of Chingay 2013

22 02 2013

Themed “Fire in Snow”, Chingay this year celebrates the strength of the human spirit in the face of life’s challenges. Presenting a spectacle (as it always does), with fire representing resilience, bravery, perseverance, passion and determination. This will be placed in contrast with snow representing challenges and hardships. Exemplifying the spirit of this year’s Chingay will be not just the resilient Singaporeans who would be honoured during Chingay, but also the participants who have collectively put in many hours of tireless efforts including rehearsing through last evening’s pouring rain to bring the show to the audience tonight and tomorrow night. Besides being part of the audience, Chingay 2013 can also be watched live at this link.

Participants rehearsing through the pouring rain - exemplifying the spirit of Chingay 2013.

Participants rehearsing through the pouring rain – exemplifying the spirit of Chingay 2013.

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Mr Nah Juay Hng, Chairman of the Chingay Parade Exco with  Peng Qia Qia (澎恰恰), Hong Rong Hong (洪荣宏), Yang Lie (杨烈) and Billy Wang (东方比利) as well as some of the resilient Singaporeans who will be honoured at the event.

Mr Nah Juay Hng, Chairman of the Chingay Parade Exco with Peng Qia Qia (澎恰恰), Hong Rong Hong (洪荣宏), Yang Lie (杨烈) and Billy Wang (东方比利) as well as some of the resilient Singaporeans who will be honoured at the event.





Celebrating the Lunar New Year at Marina Bay

12 02 2013

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, The Float @ Marina Bay once again plays host to River Hongbao. The annual event, now in its 27th year, is organised by Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCCI), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and People’s Association (PA) with the aim to allow both locals and visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere. This year’s fair sees a display of lanterns including some of the largest which have been designed and specially handcrafted for River Hongbao on display at The Float. This combined with the host of fringe activities including amusement rides and carnival games; nightly shows on the main stage and; brought specially this year – food and handicraft from Guangdong Province, will certainly make this year’s River Hongbao one that will certainly be worth a visit.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The lanterns will definitely be a draw this year – the most eye-catching one being the towering 18 metre tall God of Wealth, as well as two large Screen Lanterns, which measuring 30 metres by 10 metres, will certainly not be missed. The lanterns have all been locally designed and handcrafted by craftsmen in China and also include zodiac lanterns – 12 of them each with a zodiac animal – the one with the snake will of course be taking centre stage. One rather interesting lantern is that resembles a Chinese Opera or Wayang stage – with lantern puppets as well as puppet show performances at selected times throughout the day. Visitors can also look forward to receiving fortune numbers from the God of Wealth at two hourly intervals from 1 to 11 pm.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

A floating lantern.

A floating lantern.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

Besides the lanterns, the happenings on the main stage which comes alive every evening, should also not be missed. The shows on the main stage will over the nine evenings, feature performances by both local and foreign performers, including acts which hail from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.  The highlight includes the performances which feature dancers from the National Taiwan University of Arts and the Nanfang Song and Dance Company, as well as acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. In addition to these acts, the evening of 13 February will see a “Local Talent Night”,  14 February a “Youth Night” which showcases upcoming young talents and 15 February, a “SFCCA Night” during which the clan associations will put up both Mandarin as well as perfromances in dialects. The last evening (16 February) will see a “Harmony Night” when the different ethnic groups come together in a grand finale. For more information on the programme, please visit the River Hongbao’s Programme page. River Hongbao 2013 runs from 8 to 16 February 2013. More information on River Hongbao can also be found at the event’s website and Facebook Page.

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Further information on River Hongbao 2013:

Working with Guangdong

As part of efforts to further cultural cooperation with Guangdong Province, River Hongbao will be partnering the Department of Culture and Department of Tourism of Guangdong Province to bring the region’s highlights to Singapore. Visitors to The Float will be entertained by the Guangdong Arts Troupe, which comprises of performers from the highly acclaimed Nanfang Song and Dance Company and acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. Guangdong is also well known for its popular Cantonese cuisine so expect your tastebuds to be tantalized by the region’s delicacies available at the River Hongbao Food Street. Handicrafts from from different provinces of Guangdong like silk scarves from Shunde, Guangzhou bone and jade sculptures, Foshan paper cuttings and souvenirs from The Musuem of Dr Sun Yat Sen will also be available for visitors to bring a small piece of Guangdong back with them.

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River Hongbao Food Street

Continuing with 2012’s success, River Hongbao’s Food Street will bring back last year’s winning local fare like Char Kway Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Fried Hokkien Noodles, Satay Bee Hoon, Oyster Omelette, as well as Asian street favourites from Taiwan and Thailand. Guangdong chefs will also be flown in to entice palates with popular Guangdong delicacies like Grilled Quail’s Eggs, Soup Dumplings, Oysters steamed with garlic mince, Traditional double boiled soups and many more.

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Memory Collection Drive

This year, River Hongbao will work together with the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) to collect memories of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Visitors can share their memories of the festive traditions or past River Hongbao events at the Memory Collection Drive. For memories contributed, they will receive specially designed hongbao packets, while stocks last. These memories will enable future generations of Singaporeans to understand the collective journey of our nation and the different facets of Singapore. Members of the public can also submit photos and stories via singaporememory.sg or the SG Memory iOS App.

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Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

The fireworks display at the countdown.

The fireworks display at the countdown.





The transformation of Chingay over the years

5 02 2013

The Chingay Parade in Singapore as we know it today had its beginnings in the wake of the total ban on firecrackers which once were a must-have at any Chinese New Year celebration. That was back in 1973 – the parade was a relatively simple one which had been put together by the People’s Association and the Singapore National Pugilistic Federation, and saw a procession of lion dancers, giant flag bearers, dragon dancers, stilt walkers, clowns and juggling acts down a 3 kilometre route that took them from the old Victoria School to the end point at Outram Park. Being very much a celebration connected with the Chinese New Year, it was a very Chinese-centric passing some of the streets of Chinatown along the way. A resounding success in its first year, the decision was made to make it an annual affair and the four decades of Chingay, saw it first move into the housing estates starting with Toa Payoh in its second year, before it was moved to Orchard Road in 1985. In that time, the parade also took on first a multi-cultural flavour and then an international flavour – moving from being a street parade not just for Singaporeans but also for visitors to the island.

The carnival -like street parade Chingay is today. A less than traditional looking stilt-walker seen during the rehearsal for Chingay 2013.

The carnival -like street parade Chingay is today. A less than traditional looking stilt-walker seen during the rehearsal for Chingay 2013.

Stilt walkers from a Chinagy Parade in the 1980s seen along Orchard Road.

More traditional stilt-walkers from a Chingay Parade in the 1980s seen along Orchard Road.

The origins of Chingay are not actually in the carnival-like street parade that we are treated to today. Chingay in its original form is very much what has been described as a Hokkien Chinese tradition, once held usually in conjunction with religious festivals with a usual parade of deities, and it is in this form that it is still very much celebrated across the causeway in Johor Bahru on the 21st day of the Chinese New Year. The parades were known to be held in Singapore as far back as in the 1880s, with participation not just by the Hokkiens, but also by the main dialect groups that made up the immigrant Chinese population.

The annual event has over the years taken on a multi-cultural and more international appearance.

The annual event has over the years taken on a multi-cultural and more international appearance.

The Japanese community  in Singapore has been well represented over the years.

The Japanese community in Singapore has been well represented over the years.

A Straits Times report of 1 February 1902 describes the parade as “being accompanied by all the usual banners, flags, toms toms, bands, magnificently and grotesquely made out individuals, and figures”. The report further describes the parade: “barbaric splendour was manifested to extravagance and thousands of spectators flocked to all points to witness it. Numbers of pretty Chinese girls brilliantly and richly dressed sat on perches ten feet high, surrounded by flowers, and borne on the shoulders of bearers”.

The early parades in its more recent form would typically feature traditional performers such as flag bearers.

The early parades would typically feature traditional performers such as flag bearers.

Chingay in 1985 seen passing Peranakan Place.

Chingay in 1985 seen passing Peranakan Place along Orchard Road.

Parades in their original form were ones which perhaps were an expression of identity and on which no expense was spared, were discontinued after December 1906, when at a meeting of the Hokkien clan it was decided that the raising of public funds should properly be devoted to the promotion of children’s education instead rather than in the extravagance of a street procession.

The colourful celebration that is today's Chingay.

The colourful celebration that is today’s Chingay.

Chingay these days has perhaps come a full circle – at least in the sense of the extravagance. Each parade is now one to look forward to as a spectacle – planning we are told for the parades start as early as some fifteen months before each one is held. No longer a what can be seen as a spontaneous celebration on the streets, the preparations for Chingay these days involve a massive effort, not just from the organisers but also from the performers with many rehearsals required to perfect what has essentially become a staged performance which of late has included effects which bring out the spectacular – much like how National Day Parades are now staged. In that – the Chingay parades are now ones as with National Day Parades which should not be missed. Unlike National Day Parades for which tickets are often hard to come by, tickets for Chingay are available for purchase – these, I am given to understand are selling fast. Tickets may be purchased from SISTIC (see website). More information on ticketing and on the parade can be found at the Chingay 2013 website. For photographs of a preview of Chingay 2013 – please visit my previous post on Chingay 2013.

Stilt-walkers resting along the Orchard Road route in 1985.

Stilt-walkers resting along the Orchard Road route in 1985.


Some highlights of Chingay 2013:

  • Grandest Cultural Opening – 文天祥之“正气歌” Song of Righteousness by renowned Wen Tian Xiang, Song Dynasty (Cultural collaboration between artistes from Singapore and Fuzhou), with Chingay Taichi Sword Showcase
  • World’s Biggest Peach Blossoms, “桃夭” Performance
  • First-Ever Combined Chinese Opera Performance of Lady Generals of The Yang “杨门女将” jointly presented by Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese Opera Groups in Singapore
  • Programme will involve at least 5,000 students and Singaporeans to write calligraphy based on the poem “Song of Righteousness” 五言诗:正气歌





Fire in snow lights up the Lunar New Year

4 02 2013

While many in Singapore feel that the annual Chingay parade, now in its 41st year, has moved away from its original purpose of a street parade for the masses first celebrated in 1973 to make up for a total ban on the long held tradition of letting off fireworks during the Lunar New Year, the parade is without a doubt still very much a celebration of what Singapore is and what perhaps Singapore has become. The parade has in its recent editions become a show of the spectacular, combining a street-like parade in which the people from all major races and from all walks of life participate, with a well-orchestrated show of lights, music and effects which never fail to dazzle the audience. The theme of this year’s parade, “Fire in Snow”, will on the evidence of Saturday’s rehearsal, no doubt be as dramatic, if not more so, than last year’s water show was, with the opening scene seeing some 3000 performers light pots of fire, which turns the 360 metre parade route at the F1 Pit Building into a spectacular sea of light. The parade’s dramatic opening is matched by an equally staggering finale during which the parade’s audience and participants will be showered in falling “snow”, in which falling soap and pieces of paper brings the parade to a sensational close.

Chingay brings together members of the various communities in Singapore in an annual street celebration.

Chingay brings together members of the various communities in Singapore in an annual street celebration.

The opening scene sees the lighting of pots of fire.

The opening scene sees the lighting of pots of fire.

The spectacular closing sees "snow" falling on the parade.

The spectacular closing sees “snow” falling on the parade.

Saturday’s rehearsal, which was opened to members of the media, also had some 8,000 students in its audience. The students, representing some 56 schools, were there to participate in a National Education (NE) show to educate students about multicultural harmony. This is the first time students an NE show, usually associated with National Day Parade rehearsals, is being held in conjunction with the Chingay Parade rehearsals. The six-part parade will see some 10,000 performers representing some 120 organizations and will include a Chinese classical featuring 450 young performers from Singapore and China; a combined Chinese Opera Show with 300 members of local Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese opera troupes who will perform to the strains of Phantom of the Opera; Tai-chi Swordmasters; and the participation of a 1,000 strong PAssion Zumba Community which includes the youngest participant in the parade who is only 4.

The largest Chinese Classical Dance in the show's history sees 450 young dancers from both Singapore and China peform.

The largest Chinese Classical Dance in the show’s history sees 450 young dancers from both Singapore and China peform.

A close up of the Chinese Classical Dance segment.

A close up of the Chinese Classical Dance segment.

Tai-chi swordmasters.

Tai-chi swordmasters.

The parade will be held on Friday 22 February and Saturday 23 February this year. More information including that on ticketing can be found at the Chingay 2013 website.

Members of the Queenstown CC Cantonese Opera troupe pose for a photograph before the rehearsal.

Members of the Queenstown CC Cantonese Opera troupe pose for a photograph before the rehearsal.

Student performers dressed in Chinese Opera costumes practicing before the parade.

Student performers dressed in Chinese Opera costumes practicing before the parade.

The youngest participant who is 4.

The youngest participant who is 4.

Ms Elaine Tjon a member of the PAssion Zumba Community sharing her experience at the media conference.

Ms Elaine Tjon a member of the PAssion Zumba Community sharing her experience at the media conference.

Student participants at the media conference.

Student participants at the media conference.

Mr Nah Juay Hng, Chairman of the Chingay Parade Exco speaking.

Mr Nah Juay Hng, Chairman of the Chingay Parade Exco speaking.

Members of the Japanese community.

Members of the Japanese community.

Float carrying more participants from Singapore's Japanese Community.

Float carrying more participants from Singapore’s Japanese Community.

The NE Show audience - schoolchildren expanded a lot of energy during the parade.

The NE Show audience – schoolchildren expanded a lot of energy during the parade.


More photographs from Saturday’s rehearsal:

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Chingay returns with a big splash!

17 01 2012

Those who remember the very first Chingay in 1973 will remember it as a parade of lion dances, giant flag bearers, dragon dances, stilt walkers, clowns and juggling acts that took a 3 kilometre route from the old Victoria School to Outram Park. Those were the very first step of what has now become a continuing journey that is now into its 40th year. That first parade featured some 2000 performers that moved along from Tyrwhitt Road, passing Jalan Besar, Bencoolen Street, Bras Basah Road, North Bridge Road, South Bridge Road, Upper Cross Street, New Bridge Road and Outram Road, all of which had been lined with crowds that had gathered in anticipation. Introduced initially to make up for an imposition of a total ban on firecrackers, the parade which had been organised by the People’s Association and the Singapore National Pugilistic Federation, was such a success that it was made into an annual event. Over the years, the Chingay in Singapore has become a highly anticipated event on the calendar, and has evolved into the colourful night-time spectacle featuring participants from far and wide that we and audiences elsewhere look forward to.

Chingay celebrates its 40th year with the 2012 edition of the annual parade which will usher in the Year of the Dragon.

A scene from the opening segment in which the People's Association Youth Chinese Orchestra's Music Director & Conductor , Mr Ng Seng Hong performs on the erhu.

To mark the 40th edition of the Chingay, the organisers this year have lined up a treat that will certainly prove to be an unique and extraordinary experience – one that will be moved off dry land and into a specially created waterway at the F1 Pit Building. I had the privilege of being treated to a preview of this during Saturday’s full dress rehearsal which was preceded by a briefing to the media chaired by Mr Nah Juay Hng – the Chairman of the Chingay Parade Singapore 2012 Exco. Together with a panel that included Mr Kazuo Sugino of The Japanese Association, Singapore and Mr P Thirunal Karasu of Narpani, Mr Ng provided members of the media with an insight into this year’s parade which will see some 8000 participants splashing their way through a 360 metre waterway. Along with the participants, numerous floats will also make their way down the waterway through the parade’s 8 themed segments.

To mark the occasion of the 40th Chingay, the parade will take place in the glow of a show of light effects along a 360 metre waterway.

Participants moving along the 360 metre waterway.

Participants splashing their way through the waterway.

Participants representing NUS having a splashing good time.

Dubbed as “A Waterway Parade of Love and Care”, the parade will also see the active participation of the Indian community. Joining hands, both new citizens and long time Singaporeans from the community will present “Kaathal Doothu” – “Messengers of Love” with a 250 strong contingent. The parade will also feature performers from elsewhere, notably Japan, China and Indonesia, as well as local troupes and various community groups. The Japanese contingent will comprise 330 members and aims to spread a message of care and love with a 9.5 metre lantern structure that will be accompanied by the strains of the evergreen Japanese song “Ue O Muite Aruko” – more commonly known elsewhere as “Sukiyaki”. The Chinese contingent this year will include 300 young ladies – schoolgirls, as well as dancers from the Red Star Dance Troupe who will feature in a performance entitled “Ta Ge”.

This Chingay will also see the participation of the Indian community with a mix of both long time citizens and newly arrived ones.

A 9.5 metre high lantern will feature in the performance by the Japanese contingent.

300 young ladies from China's schools and its Red Star Dance Troupe will give a performance entitled “Ta Ge”.

The parade this year which ushers in the Chinese Year of the Dragon will also see an abundance of representations of the mythical creature. An opening all dragon segment will see an artistic dragon float, numerous dragons representations, as well as dragon dances form both Singapore and China. The penultimate segment will also see 28 community dragons representing various community grassroots groups in Singapore making an appearance before what will be a very grand finale which will see some 3000 performers and culminate with a rendition of “爱让你看到” or “Love Will Make You See” – the parade’s finale theme song by three popular lead singers, Yang Hai Tao, Joi Chua and Vera.

Ushering in the Year of the Dragon, Chingay will feature numerous dragons.

Fire, water and swirling dragons - Chingay has come a long way since its inception in 1973.

A fire breathing dragon makes an appearance.

The grand finale will see some 3000 performers along the waterway.

On the evidence of the what we were treated to during the full dress rehearsal complete with the well-choreographed lighting effects and dragons swirling to the glow of orange from burst of flames, the parade is one that will be nothing short of spectacular, and definitely one that will be hard to forget. This year’s unique parade on water is also one that is not to be missed and one that I would look forward to with the same anticipation as I did as as that child of eight that I was to that very first Chingay close to four decades ago.

The opening segment will see "Brides of the World" strutting down a catwalk on the waterway.

Faces from the Full Dress Rehearsal


How to catch Chingay 2012

Tickets for the event which will take place on 2 days – 3 and 4 February 2012, are, as of the day of the media briefing, 80% sold for what is expected to be a sold out event. Information can be found at the Chingay 2012 website (click here). Those unable to obtain tickets are able to catch the parade at a non-waterway section of the 800 metre parade route at free standing areas at the Marina Promenade behind the Singapore Flyer.

The event will also be broadcast live over the two days and see international coverage with stations from Japan, China and Taiwan broadcasting to audiences in their respective countries, as well as see it being beamed live through Chinese internet TV network PPTV which is target at audiences in China, as well as those worldwide – making a live streaming of the event available to a variety of internet enable devices. To catch a live webcast of it, please visit the Chingay 2012 website (click here).









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