Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Chinese designs incorporated in mosques
MyKampung 2012-02-28 18:50

Members of Friends of Melaka Museums posing for group photo at the end of their visit. Front row second from left is Haji Shaukani Abbas, with Iesnordin on the extreme right. Photo courtesy by Sin Chew Daily
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Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily

MELAKA -- The structure of Kampung Kling Mosque in Melaka built in the 18th century boasts of various characteristics of the Chinese, Hindu, Sumatran and Malay cultures.

The Chinese character of double happiness carvings and a rostrum are obvious evidences of close connection with the Chinese architecture during the olden days," explained the person-in-charge at the southern region Department of Museums Iesnordin Hj. Malan, during the Melaka Cultural Heritage Tour in July organised by Friends of Melaka Museum.

Also responsible for the mosque's reconstruction in 1999, Iesnordin attended the activities held on 13 July 1999 that saw the participation of people from various ethnic groups such as Chinese, Muslims, Hindus, Nyonyas, Chettis, and French residing in Malaysia.

After refurbishment

"Tiles carvings on the roof of the mosque is identical to the ones in Cheng Hoon Temple but were concealed with white spray after the refurbishment," said Iesnordin.

The mosque was built on a square site supported by four symmetrical arches made of "kayu berlian" in the prayer hall. Coral made flower-shaped bunga kesidang ornaments adorned the roof while Dutch tiles were used as roof tiles.

Kampung Kling Mosque was originally built in wood in 1748 and later reconstructed in bricks in 1872. It was subsequently refurbished in 1908 using Dutch roof tiles with a pagoda-like minaret like in Kampung Hulu Mosque. The latest conservation works were carried out in 1999.

"Most people were curious why there were two mosques built within the same area. From what I understand they could belong to different ethnics communities. The Kampung Kling Mosque was named this way because it was erected by Indian Muslims.

"Secondly, Kampung Hulu Mosque was supposed to be demolished by the colonial government and be replaced with a new one but the plan was later cancelled," said Iesnordin.

Muslim living

A key speaker in Islamic living, retired teacher Hajjah Nasri Abbas said she remained adhered to the Islamic faith even after she came into contact with people of different religions during her studies in the United States.

"Among the five rules set by the mosque, one is to attend the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime. The children or relatives could be the representatives if a Muslim is incapable of carrying out the duty," said Abbas.

In order to form a good rapport between Muslims and non-Muslims, some non-Muslims would tend to greet Muslims by saying "Assalamuailam." However, Abbas said this is not appropriate as it means "may peace be with you" in Quran.

Abbas added that Muslims pray five times a day just like talking to Allah over the phone. The length of prayers for each session is different. Shorter prayers are practised in the pre-dawn at 5.51a.m. as well as in the evening at 4.30p.m.

Abbas pointed out further that Muslims are encouraged to pray more than five times a day. The prayers could be carried out at home or in praying rooms (surau). However, Muslim men must visit the mosque every Friday to pray with the public. No short pants or undergarments are allowed inside the mosque.

"As for Muslim women, prayers are normally carried out in their private rooms at home. Women should not be seen too often inside the mosque to avoid unnecessary distractions to the men. Due to this reason, females should put on their exclusive prayers costume concealing their whole bodies except face and hands.

"In Afghanistan, females have to cover their face and eyes as well and are not allowed to pray during their menstrual periods, " said Abbas.

New members welcome

Newly appointed Chairman of Friends of Melaka Museums, Haji Shaukani Abbas said the association is a non-government organisation set up long ago. The monthly Melaka Cultural Heritage Tour has so far been organised three times after he took over as chairman.

The organisation offers a lot of perks such as free entrance to museums, discounted prices for museum-related products and access to museum library for reading and research purposes.

The objective is to provide local people with an opportunity and platform to participate, promote and protect our cultural heritage, and strengthen the relationship between the communities with the museums through leisure activities.

Members of the public are welcome to join as members. Membership fees and contact details are as follows:

Individual membership: RM10 per annum
Children: RM2 per annum
Foreign membership: RM10 per annum
Lifetime membership: RM100
Enrolment fees: RM5

Please call 012-612 0618 or 06-282 6526/06-281 1289 for details.


28th. February 2012

I went back to Melaka yesterday for a short trip. When I was in Melaka, I had the opportunity to drive from Melaka Raya to Klebang.

Land reclamation works have been done from Melaka Raya until Klebang. More reclamation works are also being undertakened.

If you drive from Melaka Raya to Limbongan via the coastal highway, the reclaimed land on both sides of this coastal road, has been boarded up for new development. There will be new shopping malls, commercial shop houses, SOHO, condominiums and others. You name it and you will find them. Investors are pumping money into the development of this land. Was informed that there will be more than 4,000 shop houses etc. within Limbongan area.

While it is good for the Melaka Historical City Council in collection half yearly assessments from owners of these shops and offices, the question remains is whether Melaka can sustain this rapid development without proper planning.

These shops and offices can turn into empty shell if there is no business to go around. They can be left vacant as there are no tenants to rent these premises.

Pockets of unoccupied shops and offices will occur especially those not facing the main road and if this happens and owners will be be in debt if they cannot service their loans.

Overbuilding is a nightmare for property developers and Melakans will not want to see empty commercial centres dotting around Melaka. Do not follow the herd mentality and let us have a continuous but sustainable growth for Melaka.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


23 February 2012 | last updated at 12:34am

Raptor Watch takes flight for 13th straight year

MALACCA: Raptor Watch, one of the region's biggest bird-watching events, promises yet another exciting spectacle this year.
Organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) in partnership with the Malacca government, the event will take place for the 13th straight year at PNB Ilham Resort, near Tanjung Tuan, on March 10 and 11.

Every year, spectators get to see thousands of raptors, also known as birds of prey, migrate north to their breeding grounds in Siberia, China, the Korean peninsula and Japan from their winter refuge in the south.

Tanjung Tuan, which is gazetted as a forest reserve, is the nearest landfall across the Straits of Malacca from Indonesia and is an important site for the birds to rest or catch thermals before continuing on their journey.

Due to its importance to migratory birds, the 60ha site is designated as an important bird area by Birdlife International.

MNS conserves the forest reserve by promoting Raptor Watch, through which it raises awareness of raptors and the need to conserve their habitat.

Visitors come from Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand. Last year, about 2,000 turned up.

This year, MNS hopes to get even more spectators to take part in activities, which include guided walks, eco-talks, games, arts and crafts, an obstacle course and a treasure hunt.

MNS head of communications Andrew Sebastian said last year's raptor count went up to 57,000 birds over more than 40 days.

"This year, we have spotted 141 raptors, which may seem like a small number, but this is a good sign, as it means the birds will come in big numbers in March."

For details, visit

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Email Print 18 February 2012

Zoo's success with wild dogs


Malacca Zoo boasts of first dhole pups born in captivity in Malaysia

Visitors to Malacca Zoo have the opportunity to see rare dholes, including the first pair of pups born in captivity in Malaysia in August last year. Pic by Mohd Jamah Nasri
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Malacca Zoo welcomed the first dhole pups born in captivity in the country recently.
Zoo director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said the pups -- a male and a female -- were born in August last year and were now six months old.

"We (Malacca Zoo) had received our first dhole, a male, in 2008 from Terengganu while the second dhole, a female, had been sent to us from Zoo Negara in 2010.

"Soon after, the pair mated and... here they are," he told the New Straits Times, gesturing at the pups.

The pups, which had already grown to be nearly as big as their parents, bounded about in their enclosure, perhaps excited by all the attention they were getting from the photographer.

Often, they would approach the chain-link fence separating them from the public, sniffing curiously at those brave enough to come close to them.

Unlike dogs, they did not bark, but rather, let out a high-pitched whining noise or brief yaps.

"Once they are old enough to be separated from their mother, we hope to exchange them with any other zoo that have stock.

"This is to avoid inbreeding."

Ahmad added that in the wild, it was quite rare to come across them, but visitors to the zoo had the opportunity to come and see a family of dholes first-hand.

The dhole, also known as the Asiatic Wild Dog or "anjing hutan", is only found in Asia and Southeast Asia and is classified as "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

It is estimated that fewer than 2,500 mature individuals remain in the wild and the declining population trend is expected to continue.

The main threats to the species include ongoing habitat loss, depletion of prey base, harassment and possible disease transfer from domestic and feral dogs.

Dholes are unique members of the canid family as they do not fit neatly into any of the sub-families such as foxes or wolf-like dogs and are thus placed in a genus of its own -- cuon.

Scientifically known as the Cuon alpinus, dholes usually have coats that are rusty red in colour with lighter, yellow fur on its underside.

Together with the grey wolf, the African hunting dog and the Amazonian bush dog, the dhole is one of the few dogs that regularly hunts in packs and together are capable of bringing down larger animals such as wild boars and water buffalos, sometimes even tigers.


Woman finds ancient Portugese artefact in baby shark

The Star/Asia News Network
Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012

MALACCA - A baby shark being prepared for lunch gave a family here a big surprise - an ancient artefact believed to be dated long before the Portuguese conquest of Malacca.

Housewife Suseela Menon, from Klebang, made the priceless discovery while filleting the fish for lunch.

It is believed to be a medallion worn by the Portuguese soldiers, presumably as a divine protection, during their conquests in this part of the world in the 16th century.

One side of the medallion is a profile of a woman's head with a crown and encircled by a halo and an inscription that is unclear. The other side is a crucifix with an engraved inscription that read ANTONII.

Checks with a local historian revealed the head engraving could be that of Queen Elizabeth, the consort of King Denis I of Portugal during his reign from 1271 to 1336.

Ms Suseela said she immediately cleaned the medallion and preserved it in a box.

'I bought two sharks from the wet market and was taken aback upon discovering the object inside the stomach of one of the fishes,' said the 47-year-old mother-of-two at her home yesterday.

Ms Suseela had wanted to prepare shark curry for her husband.

'Finally, my husband decided not to eat the fish as the object seems to be a religious item,' she said.

The medallion is 7.4cm long, 6cm wide and weighs 10g.

'My husband feels it is a blessing for the family to have the medallion coming to our home from beneath the sea. We will always cherish it,' said Ms Suseela.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


16 February 2012 | Last updated at 12:21AM

Barge-ing into hell to exorcise Malacca's evil spirits
By Jason Gerald John and Kelly Koh Ling Min
MALACCA | 0 comments

IF evil spirits are present in a Chinese home, its occupants would call a priest to get rid of the evil spirits, during which time the family has to leave the house until the ceremonial prayers are over.

Goh Kok Him, 57, (left) menunjukkan cara menerima wahyu daripada tuhan bagi perayaan Wangkang kali ke-4 sambil diperhatikan demonstrating how one receives a message from the Ong Yah deity before a ‘wang kang’ festival is held as Te Choon Hua, 51, looks on.
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It is certainly a most sombre event.

However, the wang kang (royal barge) festival, which is aimed at exorcising evil spirits, does so in a celebratory manner, with thousands of people thronging the streets of Malacca to witness the significant festivities held once every few decades.

The festival is an age-old tradition of the Hokkien community to "cleanse" a place of evil spirits.

It was held recently for only the fifth time in the last 150 years. Previous celebrations were held in 1919, 1933 and 2001, but there are no records of when the first was held.

The 2012 festival organising committee chairman, Lai Poon Ken, 55, said the wang kang is only held when the temple deity, Ong Yah, receives a message from the heavens to hold the event.

"Evil spirits are blamed for the epidemics and chaotic events that have affected mankind throughout the ages. Cleansing is required for a healthy and happy environment for the people of Malacca.

"Wang kang is a unique event as it is not an annual event like Chinese New Year or Chap Goh Meh. But it is an important event in the Lunar calendar, especially for the Hokkien community with Taoist beliefs.

"Last year, we got the message from Ong Yah, and I was chosen to initiate the festival," said Lai.

As early as 6am, members of the Hokkien community began to gather at the Yong Chuan Tian Temple in Bandar Hilir for the procession.

From the temple, the procession proceeded for 20km along the streets of Malacca, including Jalan Bukit Senjuang, Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho, Jalan Bunga Raya, Jalan Hang Tuah, Jalan Ong Kim Wee, Jalan Tengkera, Jalan Kubu, Jalan Hang Jebat, Jalan Portugis, Jalan Masjid, Jalan Kampung Hulu, Jalan Kota and Jalan Parameswara before heading back to the temple.

Lion and dragon dance troupes, floats with small boats driven by motorcyclists, were among the groups and structures comprising the procession.

There was a chingay troupe showing off their stunts such as balancing a towering flag pole.

There were also stilt-walkers clad in colourful, traditional Chinese costumes, young children throwing candies and Ong Yah who was paraded on a sedan chair.

The procession made several stops when ceremonial sedan chairs were tossed up into the air.

The main attraction of the procession was the quaint but majestic barge.

It was pulled by some 30 devotees with ropes tied on both sides of the barge.

The barge seemed to glide along, even when the procession came across rough patches on roads like Jalan Merdeka, and when going uphill like Jalan Pulau Melaka.

At junctions, or residences of important personages linked to the festival, the chai lian tau (the captain) standing on the barge would wave the centipede-shaped flag several times.

Meanwhile, chai lian kah (the crew) "rowed" the barge with their ornamental oars as they shouted, "peh, peh, peh, lok peh, lok lok peh, lok peh", ("paddle, paddle, paddle away the evil spirits", to the accompaniment of gongs and drums.

In the evening, during the second part of the festival, some 10,000 people made a beeline for Pulau Melaka across the Straits of Malacca, armed with cameras.

Once on the island, they chose several sites from which to best capture a photo of the wang kang procession as it made its way back to the temple and the "unknown realm beyond" as the barge was set ablaze.

At this point, the atmosphere was electrifying as a fireworks display simultaneously lit up the sky with stunning colours.

It is believed the royal barge "took on board" evil spirits as it burnt, thus destroying the malicious demons.

As the barge was burning away, people walked away as well.

They were very careful to not look back.

This was because looking back would bring misfortune by spirits hell-bent to do evil to those tempted to break tradition, even as they burn on their way to annihilation.

Read more: Barge-ing into hell to exorcise Malacca's evil spirits - Central - New Straits Times

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Email Print 13 February 2012 | last updated at 03:18am
More Premium Outlets to be opened soon

JOHOR BARU: Two more Premium Outlets will be opened after the opening of the Johor Premium Outlets, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said. She said the opening of more Premium Outlets would contribute to the economy, as well as attract more tourists to do their shopping here.

"We will open more Premium Outlets in Sepang and Malacca," she said after visiting the Johor Premium Outlets here yesterday. "With the opening of more Premium Outlets, we hope spending will increase from the present 30 per cent." Bernama

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Tuesday February 7, 2012

Wangkang sweeps away evil and people off their feet

MALACCA: Thousands gathered here to watch the Wangkang or Royal Barge procession that made its way through the streets in the city's older quarter, symbolically sweeping away all evil forces that threaten to disrupt peace and prosperity.

More than 10,000 devotees and tourists witnessed the procession which began at 7.30am from the Yong Chuan Tian Temple in Banda Hilir in conjunction with Chap Goh Mei yesterday.

The procession, after a lapse of 11 years, saw mediums in a trance parading along decorated carriages while the deity Tee Hoo Ong Yah, the third among five “sworn brothers”, and other deities were carried in their respective sedan chairs.
Lighting up the night: The Wangkang being burnt, accompanied by fireworks, at the Pulau Melaka seafront Monday.

The RM80,000 wooden barge, measuring 5.8m in length, 2.4m in width and 6.1m in height passed through several streets before returning to the temple at about 4pm.

Scores of people also gathered along the roads to catch a glimpse of the barge, with some touching it to ward off bad luck.

The day-long procession caused traffic congestion in Banda Hilir as many holidaymakers also flocked to the tourist area.

In the evening, the barge was dragged from the temple towards the Pulau Melaka seafront and burnt after a prayer ceremony, signifying the sending away of evil spirits.

Yuliya Huang, 32, flew from Indonesia to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event.

“I heard of Wangkang from my Malaysian father, but I have not seen one. So I came here with my parents two days ago,” she said.

For Briton Matt Lewis Haskins, 43, from London, it was the first time he had come across a major event like this.

“The event was colourful and great. I am lucky to have witnessed it,” he said.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Sunday February 5, 2012

Evil, be gone

A deity ‘instructs’ a Chinese temple’s devotees to build a boat and load evil spirits on it. Why?

IF predictions for the year of the Black Water Dragon are to be believed, we may have to brace ourselves for calamaties such as earthquakes and tsunamis. In light of this, the grand Wangkang (Royal Barge) festival which will take place in Malacca tomorrow could not be more timely.

This time-honoured Chinese festival will see a majestic wooden barge sweep on board all the bad luck and evil spirits from the city’s historic streets before the boat is dragged to the seafront and burnt off ... into the great beyond.

The ceremonial sedan chair that will carry the Tee Ong Yah deity during the Wangkang procession.
The name Wangkang itself is a unique Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya mix of Chinese and Malay words – wang (emperor or royal) and kang (short for tongkang or barge).

“The year is said to be beset by calamities. Moreover, this is a leap lunar year with a double fourth month, which is considered less auspicious,” explains Lai Poon Ken, 59, the festival’s organising chairman.

“By sending away all evil forces, we believe this ceremony will benefit Malacca and the whole country as well. We were told by our temple’s deity, Tee Ong Yah, that we should hold it this year,” adds this chartered accountant and businessman who once worked in England.

A deity directly giving instructions to its devotees? This is not the only revelation about the Wangkang event. Another surprise is that many of the organisers are English-educated Chinese Malaysians.

Before getting into that, more on the festival tomorrow, which is Chap Goh Meh, the 15th day of Chinese New Year. This may be the best time to visit this heritage city, as a piece of history comes alive in all its glory. To get an idea of its historical pedigree, the Wangkang of 1933 had an estimated 100,000 people of all races coming in steamer ships, trains, cars and bullock carts to witness the procession in Malacca. As noted in the (Singapore) Straits Times then, every available bed in town was taken and hundreds slept in the open, while all Chinese houses were decorated with red lanterns/cloths.

The festival was held to alleviate the effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and whether by coincidence or otherwise, there was a subsequent rise in rubber prices.

Huge crowds were in Malacca to witness the Wangkang festival of 1919.
Rich history

According to the late Dr Tan Seng Tee, as recorded in the Malacca Guardian newspaper (Nov 26, 1933), Wangkangs have been organised during troubled times such as in 1905 (the Russian-Japanese war and the Chinese boycott of American goods) and 1919 (when a global flu epidemic broke out after World War I).

Dr Tan took part in the rituals himself in 1905 and remembered how the costumes were decorated with gold and diamonds, and cost from 500 to 10,000 Straits dollars – princely sums in those days.

In Malacca, the festival was first held, as far as Dr Tan could trace, in 1846, and then took place every five or eight years. It was stopped in 1880 but revived in 1891 during an outbreak of virulent cholera. After Dr Tan’s time, the festival was dormant for 68 years before it was revived in 2001 during the height of the SARS epidemic which jeopardised tourism in Malacca.

According to Dr Soo Khin Wah from the Department of Chinese Studies, Universiti Malaya, the Wangkang customs were brought to Malacca by Hokkien migrants who were fleeing persecution during the Qing or Manchu Dynasty (1644 to 1911)in China. In the Chiang Chew and Chuan Chew districts of Fujian province, China, five deities or Ong Yahs with the surnames Choo, Hoon, Tee, Lee and Pek (in order of seniority) were worshipped.

When the Hokkiens brought their deities to Malacca, the locals came to regard them as their patron saints.

“In dire times when pestilences or other calamities threatened, they invoked the help of the Ong Yahs,” Soo explains. The fact that the deities have surnames indicates that they were once human.

“The term Ong Yah can also mean the Emperor’s district representative,” explains Lai. “Sometimes people will scold: Lu si Ong Yah meh? It’s like saying: Are you a Little Napoleon?”

One legendary origin of the Ong Yahs, as recounted by Dr Tan in the Malacca Guardian, has it that during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), the emperor wanted to test the powers of a Taoist high priest. And so, as 360 scholars were playing music in his palace, the priest sprinkled some rice and salt on the floor and struck it with his magic sword, severing all the scholars’ heads.

That very night, the indignant souls appeared before the emperor and demanded their lives back from him. Following the intervention of the Heavenly Jade Emperor, the earthly ruler canonised the restless souls as Ong Yahs, declaring that wherever they went, they would be worshipped. And, as fable has it, five of the 360 went to the two aforementioned districts of Fujian province where they became deities.


After sifting through the myths, what is real to the devotees in Malacca are the deities’ (supposed) supernatural powers. The Wangkang organising committee is based at the Yong Chuan Tian temple in Bandar Hilir (now known as Jalan Parameswara) which houses Tee Ong Yah. This is the third of the five deities, but he is considered to be the leader who sits in the middle.

The temple’s official name means “the court of perfect bravery” but the feats of the deity are such that the place is more commonly known in Malacca as Ong Yah Kong, or simply, Ong Yah’s temple.

Three times a week, people come to consult the deity about their problems. And how does the deity answer? An Astro documentary on the temple shows a strange force seemingly “possessing” a small sacred chair (which is held by two people) and moving it all over a special table with a rubberised surface.

The chair’s movements mimic the strokes of Chinese characters which are promptly deciphered by a dou tau (table chief). At times, the chair hits the table so violently that the assistants’ hands are injured. Ah, so the rubber makes sense.

“We’ve replaced a few broken chairs,” says Lai.

Soh Boon Chye, 40, the tua ching or temple’s chief of ceremonial rites, explains: “Those holding the chairs do not go into a trance; the deity moves the chair and the holders just follow the force.”

The spiritual army protecting the Royal Barge in its shipyard are represented by these horses which are ‘fed’ with live grass.
And so, this is how the deity directed the temple committee to organise the Wangkang.

Lai relates: “Ong Yah told us not just the date for the festival but everything else too, like when to start work, how big the boat should be, and where to set up the shipyard.”

When the deity is not busy “writing”, he will be directing his healing energy – via gentle movements of the chair – to the temple’s supplicants.

Dr Soo from Universiti Malaya says that Tee Ong Yah, a deity distinguished by his distinct black face, has been remarkably successful in curing people, thus making the temple increasingly popular among worshippers.

Surprisingly, the spirit-inspired chair was a lost tradition at the temple until Soh was contacted by some people from Brunei out of the blue.

“There is a temple there with the same Ong Yah who told the Brunei devotees to come to the Malacca temple to look for someone with my surname,” recalls this sales manager.

When they met, Soh was told that he had been “chosen” to revive the Ong Yah’s ancient customs.

“Some people may think we are putting on an act. When I went to Brunei in 2001, I also had doubts. When I first held the chair, it didn’t move at all for an hour. Instead, some kind of force caused my head, arms and legs to move uncontrollably until I was sweating all over and almost had cramps. Later, when the force moved the chair, I tried to stop my hands from following it, but couldn’t.”

The gilted entrance of the main hall of the Yong Chuan Tian temple.
Blessings and taboos

As I was taken around Malacca by the committee members to the other deities’ temples, I came to realise how history was so near, yet so far, for the average visitor. Of the five Ong Yahs, two of them (with the surnames Hoon and Lee) have temples at Malacca’s central artery of Jonker Walk, yet all the tourist action is at the pasar malam selling cheap handicrafts from Bali and Thailand.

In this sense, the celebration of the Wangkang is a reaffirmation that there is much more depth to Malacca’s heritage than just food and shopping.

The Royal Barge itself is 6m long with a 7.6m high mast. Made of merbau timber and five-layered plywood, it took three months to build at a cost of RM80,000.

“The man who led the team was a mosaic layer with no experience in building boats,” says Lai. “He could do it, thanks to inspiration from the Ong Yah.”

Every step was instructed by the deity. For instance, between 7am and 9am on the 14th day of the 8th lunar month of the last Rabbit Year, they were to begin construction with the erection of a koh teng (high lamp) on a 15.8m high bamboo pole, and install the koon chong and ngoh hong, the generals and armies guarding the Wangkang shipyard, which lies behind the main Ong Yah temple.

On the 23rd day of the 11th lunar month, a ritual sampan was used to collect water from the legendary Hang Li Po well at the Poh San Teng temple next to Bukit Cina.

“The water was put in a pail; half of it was for devotees to drink while the other half was placed on the boat,” says Soh.

On the same day, a gold nail was fixed to the boat by two unmarried devotees born in the year of the Dragon and the Tiger. In a nod to modernity, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam officially launched the festival website ( on Dec 11 last year.

On Chap Goh Meh tomorrow, teams of devotees will put their hands on a special 108-foot (32.9m) long rope and pull the boat (on a wheeled platform) all over the city. “Everybody can help out to share in the merits,” notes Soh.

The plans for the procession seem more like a majestic flotilla, as the Royal Barge will be accompanied by five smaller boats, as well as cultural troupes such as dragon and lion dancers, stilt walkers, a Chingay group (which will carry huge flags acrobatically) and over 100 musicians from various temples.

The five Ong Yahs will be the focus of attention, as they are carried around in elaborate sedan chairs by devotees. The black-faced statue of Tee Ong Yah from the Yong Chuan Tian temple, will be joined by the eldest of the five deities, the Choo Ong Yah from the Kandang Temple (on the outskirts of town) and three more Ong Yahs from other temples.

“The procession will start at 7.30am from our temple and go around town the whole day, stopping at 15 key junctions,” explains Lai. “We will perform ceremonies where all evil spirits and influences will be ordered to get on the boat, upon the command of the san junn hau lin or the spiritual warriors of heaven, earth and sea.”

Under the force: Soh Boon Chye (left), chief of ceremonial rites, and Chua Sek Tiong demonstrating how the Tee Ong Yah deity communicates by causing a sacred chair to move and form Chinese characters.
In the Wangkangs of 1933 and earlier, the boat was accompanied through town by a barefooted crew called the Chai Lian, who would sing a sacred song while making paddling motions with ornamental oars. However, this tradition could not be revived.

“We know the words of the song,” says Lai. “But we are not sure of the tune and the exact rites. Nobody dares to try it out for fear of getting it wrong.”

Instead, five Taoist high priests from Muar will be leading the cleansing rites. They will also be accompanied by mediums, some of whom may have their cheeks or tongues pierced with metal rods, in a manner similar to the rites of Thaipusam (which falls the very next day on Feb 7).

Daniel Ang, 42, a Baba businessman whose ancestors were actively involved in the festival, recalls a traditional pantang (taboo).

“If anyone were to mock or make fun of the boat as it goes through the streets, he may become mute. I was brought up to respect the Wangkang. It’s a very sacred event and we should not play the fool with it.”

The climax will see the boat – and its load of evils – being hauled to the sea at Pulau Melaka where it will be set alight and perish in a huge bonfire.

Lai advises: “When the boat is burning, people are advised to go away and not look back.”

Whatever our beliefs may be, turning our backs on bad luck and evil must surely be the right thing to do in 2012.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Email    Print 02 February 2012 | last updated at 12:51am
Sending a boatload of evil spirits back to hell

MALACCA | 0 comments

Rare procession to rid Malacca of misfortune

A Wangkang organising committee member preparing the wooden boat that will be paraded around the streets of Malacca on Feb 6 to collect evil spirits and negative elements.

Pic by Mohd Khairul Helmy
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  IT is not an annual event like  Chinese New Year or  Chap Goh Mei, but the Wangkang Festival is nevertheless important in the Chinese  calendar, especially for the Hokkien community.

  Wangkang is a festival which is believed to have its beginnings 150 years ago and it comes around once in several decades. This is only the fifth time that it is held in Malacca in the form of a boat procession.

  The last three Wangkang festivals took place in 1919, 1933 and 2001, and there are no records on when the first was held in the country.

  The event is aimed at ridding evil spirits in the state and country. It may be a once in a lifetime experience  as it is only held when the medium at the temple gets the command from the heavens.

  The 2012 Wangkang organising committee chairman, Lai Poon Pen, 55, said instructions from the "Heaven God" stated that this year is an unfortunate year as Malacca would be struck by disasters.

  "It was last year when we got this important message, and I was chosen to  carry out the festival."  

   It is also known as the King Barge Festival and it is a tradition of the Chinese Peranakan, whose ancestors migrated to Malacca from the Hokkien-speaking provinces of China during the colonial era.

   "The idea of having the Wangkang boat procession around  town is to collect evil spirits, wandering souls and other negative elements on the road, and send them away to bring in  health, peace and happiness  to the people of Malacca.

   "The festival starts with the rising of the koh teng, an oil lamp on a 12m bamboo pole,  to send a message to heaven  that an important event will be held soon.

   "As for the boat, we have different names for it each year. In 1919, it was called Lian An, meaning united peace while in 1933, the boat was named Ming An, which means people's peace. It was Jia An in 2001, meaning Malacca peace, and this year, it is Chuan An which means total peace," said Lai  at the Yong Chuan Tian Temple in Banda Hilir yesterday.

  He said  the 5.8m-long, 2.5m-wide and 2m-high boat was made of wood by five committee members.

  "The RM80,000 boat will be loaded with rice, water, wine, joss paper, herbs, pots, pans, stoves, and  supplies for the evil spirits  as we believe there should be an equilibrium between heaven, earth and hell."

  Lai said the Tourism Ministry gave RM10,000 and the state government provided RM15,000 towards the cost of building the boat.

  The rest of the money was collected from the people.

  The Wangkang will be paraded in the streets here on Feb 6 --  the last day of  Chinese New Year which is also Chap Goh Mei --  before being  set ablaze in a bonfire.

Read more: Sending a boatload of evil spirits back to hell - General - New Straits Times