Friday, 7 February 2014

Chingay & River Hongbao

Explosion of colour at biggest Chingay parade

Chingay is going big this year, with giant puppets, an 8m-tall straw horse, the country's largest batik painting, and - at the heart of it all - some 70,000 volunteers and performers to usher in the Year of the Horse in an explosion of sound and colour.

This is the grandest showing by the annual Chinese New Year procession since it was first held in 1973 to liven up festive celebrations.

With the theme "Colours of Fabric, One People", the parade saw double the number of volunteers than in last year's Chingay, and the most number of foreign performers yet, with more than 800 people from six countries.

Chingay - A Joyous Celebration

Chingay Parade Singapore

The Chingay Parade is a traditional Chinese New Year procession that has grown in recent years to become a massive street parade, boasting a stunning array of dancers, street floats, jugglers, percussionists, lion and dragon dancers, clowns and acrobats, among others.

The parade has its origins in China, where processions of a similar ilk were held for two weeks after the Lunar New Year to welcome the season of spring. The name “Chingay” was coined from its Hokkien dialect equivalent, meaning “the art of costume and masquerade”, and is a longstanding tradition dating back to 1973, when the first parade was organised.

In the 1990s, the parade became an evening-to-night event, complete with an impressive display of lights and other pyrotechnics. People from all walks of life participate in the Chingay, as long as they have something to celebrate and share. Over the years, the route for the parade has covered most of the central areas of Singapore like Outram Park, Orchard Road, Chinatown and City Hall.

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River Hongbao 2014 celebrations

The celebrations begins on Wednesday and will last till February 8

The annual River Hongbao celebrations will begin on Wednesday night to usher in the Year of the Horse.

This year's celebrations will see more young Singaporeans volunteering compared to last year, while educational and interactive elements will also feature in the festivities.

The celebrations will be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay, and features larger-than-life lantern displays, and local and regional performances by groups such as the Yunnan Opera Theatre and Taipei University of the Arts.

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River Hongbao - Chinese New Year by the River

Chinese Culture

The term “Hong Bao”, meaning red packet, is a monetary gift often associated with Chinese New Year. Symbolising good luck, what better way to usher in the Chinese New Year than at the River Hongbao.

Since 1986, the River Hongbao has been an annual Chinese New Year event that preserves and revives Chinese cultures and traditions. Since then, the event has been a compelling destination for the young and old alike.

To welcome the new year, cultural collaborations between Singapore and China will treat you to an international line up of performances by foreign and local artists. Immerse yourself in rich Chinese cultural activities such as Chinese calligraphy and riddle games, or savour unique delicacies at the food fair.

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Lion dance - Celebrating Good Fortune

Lion Dance

The lion dance is a pugilistic performance that is mainly performed on occasions such as official openings of buildings, offices and shops in Singapore, and especially during festivals like Chinese.

The Chinese in Singapore believe that the lion brings forth good fortune. Legend has it that a monstrous creature, the Nien, would destroy the fields, crops and animal of farmers each year on the eve of Chinese New Year. To put an end to the animal’s ravaging, the villagers put together a fearsome model of an animal using bamboo and paper, and manipulated it like a puppet to scare off the ferocious Nien, along with the loud and persistent banging of drums.

Their ingenious plan was followed with success and henceforth, the lion dance was performed annually to celebrate it.The best time and place to witness lion dance performances is on the eve of Chinese New Year in Chinatown, where you can also enjoy the Chinatown Street Light Up at the same time.

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Chingay is an annual street parade held in Singapore as part of the Lunar New Year celebrations. The term “Chingay” is derived from the Chinese term zhuangyi, meaning “the art of masquerading”, a reference to the original stages or floats depicting religious and historical scenes that were carried in procession on the shoulders of men. Originally a religious festival with roots in China, it is believed that 19th-century Chinese immigrants brought Chingay to Penang, which became famous for its lavish processions featuring elaborate floats and huge flags. In Singapore, Chingay processions are known to have taken place from the 1880s to 1906, when they were abolished. The modern Chingay parade began in 1973 and has evolved over the years into a multi-cultural event including participants of diverse ethnicities and nationalities.

With the promotion of Singapore as a tourist destination and a greater emphasis on attractions that would draw visitors, the Chingay parade has evolved into a tourist attraction that is well known even outside Singapore. In recent years, the Singapore Tourism Board has become involved in the event together with the People’s Association.

Now held over two days, the event takes place around the Lunar New Year season but not always on the 15th day. Known for its carnival atmosphere, it is now a multi-cultural event that includes not only Chinese but also other ethnic groups. The Chingay procession in 2000, for instance, included a traditional Chinese dance featuring a dragon and phoenix, as well as a Malay opera performance and Indian Kathakali dancers.

Since 1974, the event has also incorporated regional influences and foreign participants, with the parade that year including a Walt Disney train carrying cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. It has become even more international in recent years and has been compared to large street parades held in other cities, such as the Mardi Gras parade in Brazil. The 2011 Chingay parade, for instance, featured 88m-long “flying dragons” from China as well as a contingent from Mexico.

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Chingay 2014

This year's Chingay Parade will be held on Feb 7 and 8.

To facilitate the traffic arrangements for the event, Republic Boulevard and Raffles Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic during a stipulated period.

Both Republic Boulevard (in the direction of Raffles Avenue) and Raffles Avenue (between Raffles Boulevard and Temasek Ave) will be closed on Feb 7 and 8 from 6pm to 12am.

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Dragon Dance

The Dragon Dance is a Chinese dance usually performed during the Chinese New Year to bring in good luck and prosperity. The dragons used in these dances are usually made up of sections of bamboo frames draped with silk. Performers are martial artists or acrobats who move their bodies rhythmically and synchronise their steps so that the dragon appears to move gracefully.

The length and size of the dragon can vary but is usually seven to thirteen sections long. The dragon could come in various colors, each with a symbolic meaning. Green is usually the predominant color of the dragon to symbolize a lush harvest. Other colours present include yellow representing the solemnity of an empire, mixture of gold and silver indicating prosperity and red representing excitement and animation.

Some patterns for the dragon dance are Cloud Cave, Whirlpool, Tai Chi, Dragon Vomiting The Pearl and Dragon Encircling The Pillar. The movement of dragon chasing the pearl signifies the pursuit of wisdom. In Singapore, a dragon 130 m long was created by the Singapore Dragon and Lion Dance Athletic Association and recorded in the Guinness Book of Records in 1988.

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