Chap Goh Meh Penang
Chap Goh Meh is the last day of the Chinese New Year in Penang. It's always an important day for the Chinese population in Malaysia but this year (2010) was even more interesting as it was the 12th year of the cycle of Tua Pek Kong.
Chap Goh Meh is also known as the Lantern festival although it should not be confused with the Moon Festival (Mid Autumn Festival), which is also known as the Lantern Festival.
The festival ends the 15 days of the Chinese New Year and in Penang, with its large Chinese population it is always a big celebration.
On the 15th lunar day of the year, some Chinese families worship the Heaven Officer of Taoism and pray for luck at home or temple during the daytime.
When you travel in Malaysia (this counts for China, Singapore and other countries too), the Chinese will hang lanterns in front of their door (hence also the name).
Tua Pek Kong
Tua Pek Kong is one god venerated by the Malaysian Chinese people. The story goes that Tua Pek Kong arrived in Penang 40 years before Francis Light in 1746.
Tua Pek Kong was a man named Zhang Li from the Hakka clan. His Sumatra-bound boat was struck by wind and accidentally landed on Penang which at that time had only 50 inhabitants.
After his death, the local people began worshipping him and built the Tua Pek Kong temple there. Today Tua Pek Kong is worshipped by Malaysian Chinese throughout the country.
Chap Goh Meh is also known as the Little New Year since it marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year.
Although Chap Goh Meh is everywhere in Malaysia celebrated, in Penang it is a series of events starting in the late afternoon.
I arrived at the jetty in Penang only to find out I had arrived in a massive traffic jam. Fortunately I could easily walk to Lebuh Gereja where some floats where prepared for the procession.
While I walked to Beach Street I saw the procession had already started. A fantastic endless row of floats passed, one even more beautiful decorated then others.
This year is the year of the tiger (2010), thus all floats where decorated with tigers, many very beautiful. The reason for the procession was the 12 year cycle of the Tua Pek Kong celebration.
There were more then 50 beautiful decorated floats. The floats are build by Penang based organizations and companies. Some were simple, but many were very extensive.
It took a while before all the floats had passed but finally I walked to the Kota Lama Field, the field in front of Penang's city hall. The stage was setup earlier the day but it had quickly filled up. The stage was already occupied. While I entered I was able to see the closing of an excellent performance of a group of dancers and singers from Sarawak and Sabah. It was followed by a mini Michael Jackson.
During the different performances I took a look at the tents which were set up around the field. Whatever you wanted to eat, it was available. Of course at the seaside you could try your luck by throwing mandarin oranges, and hope to hit one of the gods in the water, which would most certainly bring you luck, love and happiness if you were still single.
There were several lucky draws too. And it seemed everyone in Penang was here, this was not a festival setup for tourists, this was solely for locals where tourist could breath some of the rich Penang culture.
A few other performances including Magician Arnold who was able to bring a Chinese lion out a box (good work!) and some singers. More irritating was the never ending "funny games" show of Red FM (for this performance alone I would never listen to that station) but the Lion dance made all the waiting worth.
During the Chinese New Year celebration on the 20th I had already seen this group performing but this time it was even better. There were two lions dancing on high poles. The two lions had a magical show with a lot of playing and joking.
For me the Chap Goh Meh had ended. I needed nothing else after this absolute magnificent show. My only regret was that I had not been able to film the performance, there were too many people in front of me to do this proper. But trust me, I will be at the Chap Goh Meh 2011 in Penang.