I was watching the Amazing Race (Season 16, episode 8)on TV a couple of days ago and pleased to see that the competitors were in the historical and beautiful island of Penang in Malaysia on their race around the world. I thought the program did a good job of showcasing some of the more interesting aspects about the people and culture of Penang.
If you had watched the program, you would have learned, for example, that Malaysian taxi drivers need little encouragement to speed and drive recklessly and that we are capable of having traffic jams even on idyllic island paradises.
Seriously though, I particularly liked the way the program introduced the unique culture that developed in a place that has been a cultural mixing bowl for some 600 years. The team consisting of two cowboy brothers won the leg of the competition because they undertook to do the Chingay and did surprisingly well.
Chingay is a cultural performance that originated from China but was introduced to Penang by the Chinese people living there. The signature of Chingay is the carrying of gigantic bamboo flags in street processions. These performances have their roots in Taoist worship. The hoisting of gigantic flags have been recorded as early as 1905, and were performed to appease Taoist deities. The name “Chin Gay” means “true art” in the Hokkien dialect.
However, it is easier for you to see it for yourself rather than have me try to explain it in words. As the video shows, despite the Chinese origin, Chingay is truly a sport that has attracted practitioners from all the different races in Penang (the three main races of Malay, Chinese and Indian are shown in the video). This is a Malaysia that makes me proud. A Malaysia where all the races enjoys and appreciates the richness that their different cultures can bring. This is a Malaysia that is getting a little too rare these days.