Monday July 2, 2012
Spectacular parade of floats
By ROYCE TAN
Photos by GARY CHEN and ROYCE TAN
20,000 people converge to witness rare procession in George Town
THOUSANDS converged on various streets and junctions in Penang for a rare spectacle held to celebrate famous Tang dynasty general Chen Yuanguang.
A total of 76 floats paraded around George Town in conjunction with the fourth international Kai Zhang Cultural Exchange Convention and the wonderful spectrum, burst of colours and gaiety were truly a sight to behold for some 20,000 spectators.
Leading the procession was a man riding a horse, donning a blue ancient general uniform, depicting Chen.
Clans from Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, China and the Philippines also took part in the procession.
Before the parade started its 12km route, about 4,500 participants engaged in a pra- yer session.
The procession passed by Gat Lebuh Noordin, Weld Quay, Lebuh Light, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Lebuh Carnarvon, Lebuh Magazine, Jalan Gurdwara and Jalan C.Y. Choy before heading back to the starting point in more than three hours.
The highlight of the night was a float featuring two huge durian sculptures.
Australians Andrew, 62, and Gaye Collett, 59, were truly amazed with the parade.
“This is our third time in Penang and it’s as mesmerising as the time during the Thaipusam and Wesak Day,” said Gaye.
Norwegian Řystein Hannevik, 28, was also bedazzled.
“I’ve seen parades in my country but they were never this grand,” he said, adding that he loved Malaysia for its mixture of culture.
During the event on Saturday night, the attractions included a chingay, dragon, lion and tiger dance, a band performance by SMJK Chung Hwa Confucian and a few traditional dance performances. The main float with 12 dragons with a statue of Chen graciously sitting on top, was designed by Master Seck Chin Sooi at the Heong Hoon Buddhist Association in Paya Terubong.
The event was organised by the Tan Si Chong Ghee Seah (association) and co-organised by Sam Toh Bean Lok Keok and the Federation of Chan (Tan) Clan Associations Malaysia.
The people of Zhangzhou in Fujian, along with the descendants of immigrants from Zhangzhou to Taiwan, all refer to Chen as the ‘Sacred Prince, Developer of Zhangzhou’.
At the age of 13, he accompanied his father Chen Zheng, commander of the Southern China military expeditionary force on a march to Fujian to set up a regional administration.
Taking over the post after his father died, he led 8,723 soldiers during the Tang Dynasty to quell infighting among the various provinces and brought unity to the people of 87 clans (surnames).
Chen was killed in the second Jingyu year of the Tang Dynasty (711 AD) in a revolt led by Lan Fonggao.
Among the titles conferred to Chen by the emperor in the Tang Dynasty were Youbao Taowei Dajiangjun (Senior Great General and Brave Protector) and also the Governor of Yingchuan.
He was further granted Guangji Wang (King of Extensive Salvation), Lingzhu Wang (King of Numinous Tranquility and Chenghui Wang (King of Accoplished Benevolence) during the Song Dynasty.
“As our people are not really familiar with the existence of Chen, we hope this celebration will help to raise the awareness and to promote the belief for the younger generations,” said organising chairman and Penang Chinese Town Hall vice president Tan Sri Tan Khoon Hai.
State Tourism and Cultural Development Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang said Malaysia would only have the chance to host the event again in 2034.