03/05/2018, 17.57
INDONESIA
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Chinese community celebrates Cap Go Meh in Singkawang (photos)

by Mathias Hariyadi

Every year, during the festival, the city hosts lively and colourful parades, famous throughout the country. On the celebration’s eve a great parade of red lanterns takes place. The next day, the Tatung parade is held, with people possessed by gods or supernatural spirits called Lauya.

Singkawang (AsiaNews) – Last Friday, the Chinese community in Singkawang, West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), celebrated Cap Go Meh, "the fifteenth night", Imlek in Indonesian, a festival that marks the last day of the start of the Chinese New Year.

Singkawang and Pontianak, the provincial capital, are known as Indonesia’s Chinatowns since the majority of their population is made up of ethnic Chinese, followed by Dayak, Malays and migrant groups from Java, Madura and Sumatera (Sumatra).

Every year, on the occasion of Cap Go Meh, Singkawang hosts lively and colourful parades, which are famous throughout the country. For weeks, the streets and buildings in the city centre are decked out with red lanterns.

The night before Cap Go Meh the lights take part in a great procession that draws thousands of participants and artists.

The culmination of the festival, the next day, is the ancient Tatung parade, a term that in Hakka means a person who is believed to be possessed by gods or supernatural spirits called Lauya.

Dressed in colourful traditional clothes, the Tatung – ethnic Chinese and Dayak men, women and even children – show off their supernatural abilities. Defying pain, they pierce their body with sharp objects. According to tradition, no one should be harmed if they follow the rules.

About 1,038 Tatung from the villages around Singkawang, as well as some foreigners from Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) and Thailand, took part in this year's Cap Go Meh.

Thousands of people also crowded every street in the city for the Barongsai (dragon dance).

Various government officials were present at the celebrations, including two members of the cabinet, Minister of Youth and Sports Imam Nahrawi and Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin.

West Kalimantan’s outgoing governor, Cornelis, Landak Regency chief Karolin Margret Natasa, and Singkawang’s first woman mayor, Tjhai Chui Mie were also present.

 (Sr Maria Seba SFIC contributed to this article)

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