A peek at Hokkien traditions, customs

Japanese Tomoko Kawaguchi, 39, who has worked in a finance company here for 1½ years, has always been curious about local culture.

On Thursday night, she had a chance to find out how the Hokkiens in Singapore mark Chinese New Year when she joined a tour at the Thian Hock Keng Temple.

She was one of more than 200 visitors, mostly tourists and foreign residents here, who took part in a new guided tour in English by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

"Since practically everything is new knowledge to me during this tour, it's nice that there are tours conducted in simple English," said Ms Kawaguchi.

The Hokkien clan association had started the tour to introduce temple traditions and customs to its visitors.

The temple dates back over 175 years.

These tours, which started on the eve of Chinese New Year, will continue till the 15th or last day of Chinese New Year, next Thursday.

"Living in a multiracial and multi-religious nation, it is important that we celebrate our holidays with friends of other races to promote interracial understanding," said Mr Perng Peck Seng, chairman of Thian Hock Keng Management Committee.

"We decided to use Thian Hock Keng as a 'live classroom' to give our participants an interactive experience of our customs."

These include learning the traditional way of entering the temple, and making wishes at the wishing well.

Visitors can also enjoy getai performances, and view bilingual exhibitions of Chinese myths and legends.

On Thursday night, visitors also saw how Hokkien Singaporeans prepare offerings to celebrate the birthday of the Heavenly Emperor, Tian Gong Dan, which falls on the ninth day of the Chinese New Year.

Joss paper and offerings, including sugarcane, are usually burnt to mark the occasion.

Given enough support for the tours, Mr Perng said the Hokkien Huay Kuan would consider similar tours for festivities such as Confucius' birthday.

This article was first published on February 28, 2015.
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