Chingay parade

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The Chingay Parade is an annual street parade held in Malaysia and Singapore in celebration with the birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin) as part of the Chinese New Year festivities.[1] The term Chingay itself originated from the Chinese communities of Southeast Asia, which is a phonetic equivalent of both the Chinese words "真艺" (zhēnyì) which means "true art" in the Penang version, and "妆艺," (zhuāngyì) which means "a decorated miniature stage" or float in the Singapore version. PAYM (People's Association Youth Movement) has been an active contributor to chingay in Singapore. Today the parade is celebrated by all communities of both Malaysia and Singapore.[2]


The Campbell Street Party that took part in the Chingay procession, Penang, 1937.

Chingay procession was held in celebration with the birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin). It was held to worship and enjoy with the deity. During the earliest procession in more than 100 years ago, the earliest English newspapers Echo in Malaysia adopted the word Chingay Procession for this special event.[3]

Chingay originated from China, and the Penang Chinese first performed Chingay during deity processions.[4] It is a street art where the performer balances a giant flag that ranges from 25 to 32 feet (7.6 to 9.8 m) in height and about 60 pounds (27 kg) in weight.

Today, in Malaysia and Singapore, Chingay is not only performed by the Chinese, but the art has successfully attracted the Malays and Indians. It has become a unique multiracial performance. The popularity of Chingay in Penang has made it one of the very impressive cultural landmarks as well as an important tourist attraction.[5]

Chingay in Malaysia[edit]


A member of a Chingay troupe balancing a flag in the streets of George Town.

The Chingay Parade traces its origins to a float decorating competition held in Penang in 1905. This practice of float decoration spread to the rest of Malaya by the 1960s, and eventually became associated with the Chinese New Year.

The second Chingay procession was held in 1926 in celebration of the birthday of the God of Prosperity. The third Chingay procession was held in 1957 to celebrate the centenary of the City Council of George Town.

In the pursuit of ensuring the perpetual existence of Chingay, Chinese community in Malaysia worked hand in hand to call for the enthusiasts of various areas in forming the liaison committee of Penang Chingay in 1960s.[6]

A Chingay parade is now held annually within the city of George Town every December.[7][8] The yearly event, which has attracted locals and tourists alike, starts in the evening from Brick Kiln Road (now Gurdwara Road), snaking through the city streets before ending at the Esplanade.[7][8][9]


Johor Old Temple Chingay in Johor Bahru

The Chingay parade in Johor are held annually by the Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple on the 21st day of the first month of the Lunar New Year. It is joined by the five main clans in the state, which are Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka, Hoklo and Teochew.[10]

Chingay in Singapore[edit]

Singapore Chingay parade in 2005.

On 4 February 1973, the first Singapore Chingay parade was held partly as a result of the ban on firecrackers a year earlier in 1972 as a result of fire hazards. This ban was viewed unfavourably despite the safety issues involved. Some people felt that the ban would result in a much dampened festival mood for the Chinese New Year period. To address this issue, the People's Association and the Singapore National Pugilistic Association jointly organised a street parade from Jalan Besar to Outram Park featuring the signature floats, acrobatic acts, lion and dragon dances, stilt walkers, and the like, to bring back some cheer to the general public.

The largely Chinese parade became a multi-cultural one from 1977 when Malay and Indian groups started joining in the performances, which was to mark a major precedent in the overall flavour of the parade into one which has become largely multi-cultural in character, despite the continued presence of traditional Chinese acts such as lion dances and stilt walkers to this day.

In 1985, the parade marched down Orchard Road for the first time, a move which was to prevail for much of the parade's subsequent history. Although the change could be attributed to the desire of organisers in bringing it closer to tourists along the major tourist belt and for ease of organisation on a relatively long and straight stretch of road, it also further signified the increasingly desinicized character of the parade. This is further evidenced when in 1987, an international flavour was added to the parade when a group from Japan participated for the first time with their float sponsored by The Straits Times.

The Chingay Parade became an evening-to-night parade in 1990, changing the overall feel of the parade towards one in which lights and pyrotechnics dominate. In 2000, the parade was shifted out of Orchard Road to the Civic District centering at City Hall, an area steeped in Singaporean history and culture. Construction works at the City Hall area resulted in the parade marching through the streets of the Chinatown district for the first time. Faced with limited space for spectator stands and a much more complicated and winding route in these locations, however, the parade moved back to Orchard Road in 2004 along with an effort to introduce audience participation and involvement in the traditionally passive parade. Firecrackers were let off for the first time in the parade that year. Despite the authorities allowing the firecrackers to be let off under some safety procedures, it was decided that the Chingay be preserved. In 2008, the parade was once again held at City Hall, with the route lasting from the City Hall building to The Esplanade. For the 2009 parade, it was centralised around Parliament House with the performers going around the Padang and also featured a magical Grand Finale (MAGICBOX@Chingay 2009). That year was also the first year that the telecast on television was delayed by one day. In 2010, the parade took place on part of the Formula One Marina Bay Street Circuit route.

Post-parade street parties have been held since 2004, with the exception of 2007. An estimated 150,000 spectators attended the 2009 Chingay Parade on 1 February. One million Singaporeans watched the parade on television and another 16.3 million homes and hotels across Asia received the television broadcast through Channel NewsAsia.

The 2011 Chingay Parade was held on the 11 and 12 February. It opened with a Fire Party, and included the largest moving multi-ethnic performances, the first travelling dance competition within the parade, a spectacular finale where thousands of performers flooded the parade ground holding candle lights and an inaugural colourful Arts District/ Carnival.[11] It also included activities in which the public could participate, such as the Teresa Teng Look-Alike Photo Contest[12] and the Chingay Paparazzi competition.[13]

The 2013 Chingay parade was held on 22 and 23 February. In 2014, Chingay was held on 7 and 8 February at the F1 Pit Building. Some 70,000 individuals ushered in The Year of the Horse.[14]

The 2015 Chingay was planned to involve some 11,000 performers from 150 organisations, including 760 overseas performers from 15 groups, in the largest celebration yet. Themed "We love Singapore(SG)", the main Chingay 2015 was planned to be held at the F1 Pit Building on February 27 and 28, while a street party along Orchard Road involving youths would be held on 1 March.[15]

The 2018 Chingay involved 2,000 parade volunteers and 6,500 parade performers, and also featured many examples of smart technology, including dancing robots and driverless cars. The 2018 Chingay was the first year to have a free street parade and carnival as part of the celebration, and followed a 1.5 kilometre route, double the length of the usual 720 metres.[16]

The 2019 Chingay was purposed to commemorate Singapore’s Bicentennial[17] such that understanding of the island nation’s history expanded beyond marking 200 years of Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival on the shores of Singapore in 1819[18] to a beginning that was even earlier at 1299 when the Kingdom of Singapura (also known as Temasek) was established. The theme for Chingay 2019, ‘Dreams Funtasia’[19], recognised the significance of the past, present and future of Singapore.


  1. ^ Chingay Parade in Singapore
  2. ^
  3. ^ Penang Chingay Association (2007). Penang Chingay Association[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Penang State Tourism Development & Culture (2009). Chingay Archived 2009-12-17 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Penang State Tourism Development & Culture (2009). Chingay Archived 2009-12-17 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Penang Chingay Association (2007). 40 years ago, a group of Chinese community leaders. Archived 2010-08-21 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b "Parade of stunning stunts - Metro News | The Star Online". Retrieved 2017-12-23.
  8. ^ a b "A memorable experience for visiting French couple - Nation | The Star Online". Retrieved 2017-12-23.
  9. ^ "myPenang". Retrieved 2017-12-23.
  10. ^ Kili, Kathleen Ann (24 February 2018). "JB gearing up in a big way for Chingay fest". The Star Online. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  11. ^ Chingay 2011 Singapore highlights Archived July 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Yeo, Sam Jo (18 October 2013). "Chingay 2014 to be biggest and most colourful yet". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Chingay 2015 will be grandest ever". Singapore Press Holdings. The New Paper. 19 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  16. ^ Shelina Ajit Assomull (28 November 2017). "Chingay 2018 to feature dancing robots, driverless cars". The Straits Times. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Singapore's bicentennial commemoration in 2019: A time to reflect on its rich history". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  18. ^ "Bicentennial logo launched, design reflects 700 years of history". 3 December 2018. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  19. ^ "The Official Chingay Website - Chingay Parade Singapore". Retrieved 2019-02-12.

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