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By Ashley Sim
KUCHING, Mar 13: The Seng Ong Kong deity’s birthday celebration is back in full force this year, with thousands of people lining the streets of the city to watch the grand procession, in which over 160 contingents, including lion dance and dragon dance troupes, as well as various associations, participated.
After a morning of torrential downpours, the clouds dispersed, and the afternoon brought pleasant, cloudless weather, lifting the spirits of the faithful who had gathered at the Hong San Si Temple on Wayang Street here as early as 3pm to pay homage to the deity Seng Ong Kong prior to the evening procession.
The Hong San Si Temple, which has been around since 1848, is dedicated to a Hokkien child deity known as Kong Teck Choon Ong, or Seng Ong Kong, or more colloquially as Xiong Gong by many.
The procession, which began at roughly 4.30pm, attracted a diverse audience of observers, including locals, visitors from West Malaysia, and even foreign tourists spotted with their own DSLR cameras ready to capture one of Kuching’s major cultural events.
This evening’s procession featured 46 makeup walking teams, 15 drum and brass bands, 49 float parade teams, 38 lion dance troupes, and 11 dragon dance troupes.
The procession, which started at Hong San Si Temple and travelled down Jalan Tabuan, Jalan Ban Hock, Jalan Padungan, Jalan Main Bazaar, Jalan Gambier, and Carpenter Street before making its way back to the temple, included the 181-foot-long Fire Dragon, bright floats, big-headed dolls, dragon dancers, lion dancers, performers, and devotees.
The Fire Dragon was constructed from a heap of bound grass, into which devotees inserted joss sticks and paraded it throughout the city.
This year, indigenous groups also participated in the procession, demonstrating the strength of ties between Sarawak’s numerous ethnic groups.
Devotees then marched out of the temple shortly after 7pm, carrying Mazu, a deity from the Ching San Yen Temple (also known as the Muara Tebas Temple), Seng Ong Kong, a deity from a Taoist temple in Sabah, and Hong San Si Temple’s deity Seng Ong Kong.
Smoke filled the air, and the ground was sprinkled with red and colourful specks as party poppers, firecrackers, and fireworks were set off.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Federation of Chinese Associations (SFCA) Datuk Richard Wee told the media when met earlier that the Hong San Si Temple is an old temple managed by the Kuching Hockien Association.
Wee also mentioned that the Seng Ong Kong deity’s birthday celebration is held annually on the 22nd day of the second lunar month.
“This year’s procession is the largest ever, with more than 160 contingents. I believe this is due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which halted the celebration for three years.
“We will hold this parade every year, and I have spoken with the Sarawak Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry, and Performing Arts (MTCP) Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, about including this programme on the Sarawak tourism list,” he said.
He went on to say that the procession was participated not only by Chinese but also by people of other races in order to highlight Sarawak’s heritage.
“Here, we can see how unique Sarawak is when it comes to displaying performances in the parade of different races,” he added.
Wee also thanked the Unit For Other Religions (Unifor) for assisting in providing temple supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When this temple was closed during the pandemic, there is no income for the temple, so they also try to give a little subsidy, and we are very grateful to the Sarawak government under the leadership of the Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg,” he said.
Among others present at the procession were Deputy Premier of Sarawak Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian and Kuching South City Council (MBKS) mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng. — DayakDaily