Showing posts from September, 2010

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: Bonfire Night

It is common to see Chinese celebrating the Hungry Ghost festival at markets, hawker centers, shopping complexes or temples in Malaysia. An altar will be set up and besides the various paraphernalia for praying like joss sticks, paper money and food offerings, there would most certainly be a paper effigy of Da Shi Ye there. Some said Da Shi Ye is the leader of all Ghosts under the flagship of Kuan Yin and some said Da Shi Ye is a reincarnation of Kuan Yin. Kuan Yin most probably is the Goddess of Mercy herself, but I really don't know. Anyway, that night, the Hungry Ghost Festival celebration at Padang Brown, Penang ended with a big bonfire at around midnight. The effigy of Da Shi Ye was taken out for a short procession along the tarred roads that surrounds Padang Brown and then, when the procession endded, the effigy was burned with all the paper moneys offered in the middle of Padang Brown itself. The bonfire would most probably remind Westerners of Guy Fawkes Festival. But that…

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: Still Popular

Walking around Padang Brown in Georgetown in Penang on the final night of the state level celebration of the Hungry Ghost Festival, one would most probably come across a serpent shaped body on poles (inset). A dragon dance would be performed that night! A dragon dance is usually performed by a skilled team who would bring the motionless serpent-like body to life. The body is actually an assembly of a series of hoops covered with a rich colourful fabric and this when attached to an ornamental head and tail at the ends would give us the Chinese dragon, so much revered by the Chinese. The Dragon Dance is said to have originated during the Han Dynasty and was already a popular event during the Song Dynasty. Its popularity it seems has not waned!

Just enjoy this Singapore Cheng Jing Hui Dragon Dance now, won't you?

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: It's not just play

Besides the Chinese opera on the last day of the state-level Hungry Ghost Festival at Padang Brown in Georgetown, Penang, there was a puppet opera show the night before. Some other places might hold a Ko-Tai, a modern variety-sort of show which features live sexy lady singers in modern glittering costumes belting out popular modern pop songs but I suppose there was no Ko-Tai at all there in Padang Brown. Now, if you are beginning to think that Hungry Ghost Festival is all play, then you are mistaken. Hungry Ghost Festival is also about praying. There were devotees offering prayers throughout the day. There were less people in the afternoon but at night, the devotees trickled in and it culminated into a big gathering. Chantings were heard amidst the din from the opera show and at one point, I wonder how the two activities could be held simultaneously and at so near a place too. The people in Penang must be terribly tolerant! The praying session that night was very different from the on…

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: A Real Treat

I have heard it said somewhere, most probably in Hong Kong movies, that when watching Chinese operas during the Ghost Month, it would be advisable not to sit on the front seats. The front seats are usually empty for they are reserved for the spirits. In Padang Brown in Georgetown, Penang, I didn't see any reserved seats. All the seats were taken and many had to stand and watch the opera. One would get weary this way and I think then, it would be a great idea to take a walk. If you go to the backstage, you would be delighted to see the little orchestra of musicians who provide music for the show and you would even catch some of the actors and actresses putting on their make-up. A Western tourist had even climbed up to take their photos and to chat. That must be a real treat!

Treat yourself to scenes behind the stage! You can identify the main stage where the actors act and the scenes behind the stage, can't you?

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: Some Interest Yet

There has been a report that there has been a fading interest in the Mid-Autumn Festival among the Chinese. When I was in Penang, even before the Hungry Ghost Festival, I had heard of news of the coming Mid-Autumn Festival, which was right after the Ghost festival. The public there had been invited to take part in a lantern procession. The participants would have to ride bicycles and so, perhaps, it would be appropriate to call the procession a lantern-carrying bicycle procession. Didn't know whether that procession materialise but in the Taiping Lake Garden, as in all the years, a big crowd of mostly young teenagers had gathered to light candles and lanterns during the Mid-Autumn Festival. An Indian friend of mine who went to have a look said it was so crowded that she had to turn back home, but not after seeing from her car, some people lighting and releasing the ever popular Kong Ming Lantern. If there has been any fading interest, it ought to be for the Chinese opera. I am sur…

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: Chinese Opera Delight

Chinese opera (戏曲/戲曲) , a popular form of drama and musical theatre is said to have its roots going back to as far as the third century CE in China. A make-shift stage had been erected for a Chinese opera performance in Padang Brown. A troupe from Fujian, China had been engaged to perform. An ever-popular play on Magistrate Bao was on the board and of course, since the troupe was from Fujian and the Chinese population in Penang are mostly Hokkien, the opera was in Hokkien ( 福建话) which, by the way, is a dialect of Min NanChinese spoken in southern Fujian, Taiwan and by many overseas Chinese throughout South East Asia. The language is also known by other terms such as Minnanyu and being vernacular Chinese, I suppose you could not get to see this form of opera prior to the Yuan Dynasty since during that period, no plays were performed in vernacular Chinese. Anyway too, the opera is just one of the activities that is carried out during the festival to create goodwill in order that the gho…

Hungry Ghost Festival 2010: All Set

The Hungry Ghost Festival or Ghost festival is a traditional Chinese festival. Chinese believe the gates of Hell open once every year on the fifteenth night of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. Ghosts are free to visit their family or wander on earth then.The fifteenth day is thus called Ghost Day and the seventh month,the Ghost Month (鬼月). This year, there was a state level Ghost festival in Penang in Padang Brown, otherwise known as Padang Dato Keramat, a 12-acre playing field in George Town donated by a one-time wealthy landowner in Penang, David Brown who was a Scot from Edinburgh and who came to Penang in the early 19th century. The field was all set for a celebration - there were make-shift shelters, joss sticks, food and various other offerings and paraphenalia and a stage had even been set up...

All set for the Ghost Festival...Can you spot the stage?

More Hungry Ghost Festival tales coming up next!


Talk about One-Armed Swordsman (inset), the 1967 Hong Kong wuxia film which propelled its star Jimmy Wang Yu to super stardom, you'd probably think that a one-armed man can only be skilful in sword fighting in a movie. But this is Liu Wei - The 23-year-old plays the piano and mesmerized the crowd in real life in China's Got Talent and he is armless! It seems not too long ago the world was mesmerized by Britain's Susan Boyle who sang I dream a dream in Britain's Got Talent. Now, meet the armless self-taught pianist, Liu Wei who obviously ought to get the same amount of adoration from the world, if not more...

Meet Liu Wei...

Agnes of Hong Kong

Perhaps you'd remember Agnes of Hong Kong. In the 70s, a cousin of mine, being an ardent fan of her would sing her song so often that I would get so sick at the mention of this Agnes who actually became famous in Hong Kong after making a cover of Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game with her sister, Irene. Later, her star shone throughout southeast Asia through several of Chang Cheh's movies, including Young People and The Generation Gap, both of which, I am sure I have seen at one time or another. A Japanese singer and songwriter Masaaki Hirao then took her to Japan where she recorded her first Japanese pop hit, Poppy Flower (ひなげしの花). which made her a teenage idol there. I thought Agnes looks more Japanese than Chinese and Japanese probably love her not just for that alone. They always seem to go ga-ga over girls with big tooth in front. Anyway, before she left Hong Kong for Japan, I remember having read in the papers that Agnes told reporters that she would never marry a Japa…