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Experiencing Fire in Snow at Chingay 2013

Chingay 2013

Chingay 2013 – Fire in Snow

Having watched Chingay (妆艺大游行 ) countless times on television, I was pretty curious about seeing the street parade in person. Being there and having the opportunity  to walk alongside the performers during the grand rehearsal was entirely a new and exhilarating experience.

Chingay was a common sight in colonial times in the form of large religious processions held by the different Chinese dialect groups to honour their deities (the earliest recorded was in 1840 to welcome the arrival of the deity Ma Zhu Po the protector of seafarers from China). The word ‘Chingay’ came from the phonetic form of the Hokkien character to describe “the art of costume and masquerade”.

Singapore’s first ‘official’ Chingay was held on 4 February 1973 with 2,000 participants from the People’s Association and the Singapore National Pugilistic Federation to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The procession made its way from Victoria School in Jalan Besar to Outram Park, led by a large statue of a bull to signify the Year of the Ox. Chingay has since grown into Asia’s grandest street parade featuring spectacular acts, stunning costumes and decorated mobile floats. This year saw 10,000 performers from different races, ages, backgrounds and 120 different organisations performing to the theme of “Fire in Snow” (雪中火) for a ‘live’ audience of 160,000 and 1.5 million television viewers.

Chingay 2013

Bright sparks of Fire in Snow
Chingay’s 2013 theme celebrates the resilience of Singaporeans in the face of life’s challenges with ‘Fire’ as a symbol of bravery and determination amidst the many challenges represented by ‘Snow’. 1,000 resilient Singaporeans including the physically challenge, sick, care-givers, youths, senior citizens and new citizens participated in the street parade. Seen here are Mr Nah Juay Hng, Chairman of the Chingay Parade Exco (extreme left) with Taiwanese celebrities Peng Qia Qia (澎恰恰), Hong Rong Hong (洪荣宏), Yang Lie (杨烈) and Billy Wang (东方比利) and 20 resilient Singaporeans.

chingay 2013

The parade opened with a majestic ‘Song of Righteousness’ (正气歌) with 3,000 performers lighting up firepots, transforming the 360-metre parade route at F1 Pit Building into a breathtaking ocean of fire. It was pretty amazing to see the action happening at ground level and running together with the performers to take photos. Awwwwesome!

Chingay 2013

450 tai chi sword performers from 38 Community Centres and Resident Centres as well as the Singapore Soka Association put on a dramatic choreographic display around the flickering words “正气”, accompanied by a live performance of the “Song of Righteousness” while master calligrapher Mr Tan Khim Ser demonstrated his calligraphy strokes in tandem with the music. There was also a mass display of 10,000 calligraphy pieces contributed by 5,000 students and the public.

chingay 2013

Herione with a mean glint. I worry for the hubby if he ever dares to criticize her cooking.

Chingay 2013

This reminded me of He-Man when he raises up his sword to transform into a superhero – “By the power of Grayskull…I have the power!”

chingay 2013

Strike a pose

Chingay 2013

The 3 sprightly Chingay hosts Gurmit Singh, Lin You Yi, and Guo Liang

Chingay 2013

450 young female dancers from Singapore and China putting up the biggest Chinese cultural dance in Chingay history. It was great to see them enjoying themselves.

Chingay 2013

I am amazed how the smile never left their faces. Maybe that’s why they are feel-good fairies.

Chingay 2013

I tried to masquerade as one of the fairies…more mist please!

Chingay 2013

A smile so sweet, even the butterflies came

Chingay 2013

Schoolchildren reciting a poem

Chingay 2013

I got a backache looking at this pose. It’s hard being a fairy.

Chingay 2013

Traditional Chinese opera meets contemporary pop as 900 members of the People’s Association Youth Movement dance in operatic costumes and masks that express Western traditions to hip hop music.

Chingay 2013

Inspired by the Chinese dramatic art of ‘face-changing 变脸‘, the kids transition from Western Opera to Oriental Opera costumes in a split second. I should get the contact of the costume designer…this would come in so handy when I have multiple events in one night, heh.

Chingay 2013

Eco-dragon
This 450-metre long LED dragon is special is more than one way – it is made up of recycled water bottles.

Chingay 2013

Did you know the origins of Chingay in Singapore?
The procession came about in response to the commencement of the Dangerous Fireworks Act on 1 August 1972 which prohibited the possession and discharging of firecrackers due to deaths and injuries from fatal explosions. It was hoped that the gaiety of the Chingay would lessen the dampened festive spirit in the absence firecrackers. Seeing and hearing the firecrackers upclose was definitely a first for me, and caught me totally by surprised that I jumped out of my skin!

Chingay 2013

International troupes from Japan, France, Indonesia, Philippines and Korea were also invited to perform at Chingay. My favourite was this pyrotechnics-spewing centipede dance troupe from Guangzhou. We have seen many lion and dragon dances, but this is one of the rare occasions when I saw a centipede dance.

Chingay 2013

The men behind the Centipede Dance
It was no easy feat making this gigantic arthropod come alive, requiring much coordination and teamwork.

Chingay 2013

Juggling the Giant Flag 耍大旗, a Chinese tradition, was a common sight in the early Chingay processions. In the absence of twinkling LEDs and fiery pyrotechnics, this was considered pretty amazing stuff.

Chingay 2013

Flying Phoenixes as part of the ethnic contingent

Chingay 2013

Malay dance

Chingay 2013

Hmmmm…lantern-bearing fairies?

Chingay 2013

Golden stilt-walkers

Chingay 2013

He looked so macho

Chingay 2013

Pyrotechnics came into play

Chingay 2013

300 members from the Teochew Drama Association (潮剧联谊社), Singapore Bukit Panjang Hokkien Konghuay Opera Troupe (新加坡武吉班让福建公会芗剧团) and Queenstown CC Cantonese Group (女皇镇粤剧团) came together to present the nation’s largest ‘live’ Chinese opera show.

Chingay 2013

Opera performers on the float

Chingay 2013

This furry fire performer got me drooling…

Chingay 2013

Think I drooled so much, it began to rain…

Chingay 2013

Even Yang’s Lady Generals had to hold umbrellas to fend off the harsh rain

Chingay 2013

The Japanese contingent had a ‘waterful’ performance. Nice to see the big smiles still on their faces. Kudos to the Japanese.

Chingay 2013

Japanese float looking good enough to eat

Chingay 2013

Raja Naga Jothi
Indian float filled with gigantic fire snakes symbolise the beginning of a new cycle

Chingay 2013

‘Cinta Sejati’ or ‘An eternal love’
The Malay community was represented by a float styled like a grand castle complete with white horses worthy of Prince Charming. Too bad it didn’t come with a retractable shelter like a convertible.

Chingay 2013

The rain continued to pelt down mercilessly, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the performers’ spirits

Chingay 2013

Merry making in the rain
The rain got so heavy at this point, the rehearsal was called off. Awww shucks, I was just having so much fun. And true to Murphy’s law, the rain stopped there and then. Duh.

Chingay 2013

I looked like a drenched chicken, but I couldn’t pass up the photo opportunity with Mr Yam Ah Mee! He happened to walk past in his raincoat, and all of us (especially the aunties) screamed and went up to take photos. He was super-accommodating and personable, consider me now a fan! And went away pretty happy. :)

It was a very memorable night of many firsts – first time at Chingay, first time photographing a street parade, first time experiencing firecrackers, first time seeing a centipede dance, and first time seeing Mr Yam Ah Mee in person. But it will definitely not be the last Chingay for me :)

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A very special yusheng…

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A very special yusheng

My friend Clement’s company had a Year of the Snake lohei gathering, and this was what the yusheng looked like – it’s definitely the most creative one that I have ever seen! I wonder how next year’s Year of the Horse yusheng will look like…anticipating! :)


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Chinese New Year: When Lions & Dragons Dance

Chinese New Year

Happy New Year!

One thing I have grown to look forward to at my home during Chinese New Year are the visiting lion and dragon dances. I love the festive mood brought out by the rhythmic, boisterous beat of the big drums and clangs of cymbals.

The origin of lion dance during Chinese New Year is thought to have started through a legend where a mythical beast called a Nian (meaning year in Chinese) would come and attack villagers at the same time every year. The villagers asked for the help of a great colourful lion spirit, who came and drove the Nian away with much noise. The following year, the people were left defenseless as the lion was away defending the Emperor’s Palace. The people improvised and created a false lion out of cloth and bamboo along with noisy firecrackers to drive the Nian away. This was so successful that every year since then, the lion dance is performed to frighten away evil spirits and bring luck in with the New Year.

The lion is regarded as the king of the forest and of the other animals. It has thus long been used as a symbol of power and grandeur, and believed to offer protection from evil spirits. The lion dance is now commonly used as a symbol of auspiciousness to mark key dates such as Chinese New Year or the opening of a new business. Throughout the performance, the lion will mimic various moods and demonstrate similar physical gestures allowing the Lion to look life-like. The lion dance combines art, history and kung fu moves. A group of lion dancers consists of about 10 people.

Chinese New Year

A lion dance is preformed by two people – one at the head of the lion, one at the tail. The lion head is made out of papier mâché and the batting of the lion’s eyelids, as well as the movement of the head and mouth are supposed to enhance the lion’s vitality and longevity, while the tail of the lion sweeps away bad fortune and unpleasant things from last year.
A mirror is attached to the head of the lion. Mirrors are believed to expel negative energy, evil and bad spirits, since negative energy would be reflected backwards, evil spirit would be frightened by their own appearance when looking into the mirror and hence would disappear.

Chinese New Year

Let’s take a dip! :)

Chinese New Year

Lion on the left: Errrrm, do I reallly have to peel these oranges?
Lion on the right: Dude, I have peeled the last 280 oranges at the past dances. You are so doing this one!

Chinese New Year

The dramatic climax of the lion dance is the “Cai Qing 採青” or ‘Picking the Green’. The green here refers to vegetable leaves which are tied to a piece of string which also has a red packet attached containing money. The string is hung at a high spot such as on a tree or above the door of a shop or home), and the lion ‘eats’ both, the leaves and the red packet.

Chinese New Year

The moment everyone is waiting for – No, not to eat oranges, but to get lucky numbers.
After the lion ‘devours’ the oranges, it lies on the floor to chew the leaves and peel oranges while the musicians play a dramatic rolling crescendo. The lull is broken as the lion explodes back into activity, spitting out the leaves. This is a symbolic act of blessing by the lion, with the spitting out of the leaves signifying that there will be an abundance of everything in the coming year. The oranges are also arranged in a way to give four lucky numbers to buy lottery. I couldn’t make out what these numbers are though. Let me know if you do – we’ll share the winnings, heh.

Chinese New Year

The chairperson of the residential committee (he would have been village head in olden times) receiving the lucky scroll and fortune leek from the lion. I always wondered what they did with the leek afterwards, cook and eat it…or display in a cupboard for the entire year?

Chinese New Year

The lions used to be much revered, but in modern times they have become so accessible, cute and fluffy like puppies that children just flock to them in a swarm and smack them on the head and pull their fur. If it was a real lion, I think it would have gone bersek or died of shock. Poor thing.

Patting Zoo. Pat Pat Pat for good luck!

Chinese New Year

Just in the right costume
Lions nowadays come in an array of colours, and even LED ones. Traditionally, the appearance of the lion has a symbolism to it as interpreted by the Five Elements theory, auspicious colours, ba gua and Feng Shui.

Chinese New Year

Can I keep them as pets, Mummy?

Come again next year my dear kitties!


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Look of the Day – Firecracker

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Why do I get the feeling that someone is peeping at me from behind….
Top – From Hong Kong
Pleated Pants – Pleats Please by Issey Miyake
Ballet flats – Chanel

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Oooh it’s a cute yellow lion! Here pussy pussy….

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Hello the one as red as me, I think you look kinda cute…wanna hang out sometime? :)

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Dragonfly choker – Shop at Haji Lane

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Even the chairs and trees are as ching-chong festive as me

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Playing snake

Look of the Day - Firecracker

Oh look – the cherry blossoms look as sweet as me!

Shot at the Flower Dome Spring Blossoms Flower Field at Gardens by the Bay.
Thanks Darren Chin for helping to take the photos, and not puking in the process – cos’ I almost did looking at the poses! :D

We shall ‘pong’ to a great new year!

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GOD Mahjong Pineapple Tarts

The Thirteen Wonders. I must be the Fourteenth Weird Wonder according to chum D.

Every year I am always on the lookout for yummy and unique New Year goodies, and it’s also the time when I let all gastronomic inhibitions loose. When I saw Goods of Desire‘s x Maxim’s limited edition Chinese New Year mahjong pineapple tarts (S$35 for 15 pcs), I immediately snapped up two boxes for myself and chum D. It makes such a wonderful gift!

The pineapple tarts comes in 3 sets of mahjong special winning hands – The Thirteen Wonders(十三幺), Four Fortune(大四喜) and The Three Dragons(大三元). You don’t know which set you will get, which adds to the whole excitement. I got The Thirteen Wonders while D got the Four Fortune. The pineapple tarts tasted good as well, it’s not too sweet with just the right amount of pineapple paste. I love the retro money box too, everyone in the family is eyeing it…I’m not letting it go!

GOD Mahjong Pineapple Tarts

Dong Dong Dong CHIANG! I can’t wait for Chinese New Year to arrive! :D