atmosphere is arousing with the sound of gongs, cymbals and
drums played throughout the fair. The noise of firecrackers,
too, echoed everywhere. Looking around, all you see is red
and gold colours. In front of you, a group of people in red
costume is performing a show looking somewhat like acrobatics.
Two people are under a large lion mask;
one controls the head and the other, the tail. A person wearing
an over-sized mask in a form of a bald head having a hilarious
smile and red cheeks on it just passes you by. Can you figure
out what fair it is? Yes, it is the Chinese New Year Festival.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the reign of HM King
Bhumibol in 2006, the Chinese New Year at Yaowarat Road is going
to be arranged on a grand scale with lanterns from China as
a highlight. To
mark this occasion and the 114th anniversary of the founding
of the Chinatown in Thailand, which is one of the oldest Chinese
communities in the world situated on Yaowarat Road, Bangkok,
Thaiways presents to you the background of the Chinese
Click to read about Yaowarat Road.
Joyful celebrations of
the Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year or Trut Chin in Thai is a festival
of thanksgiving and ancestor worship, and a time of family reunion.
It was brought into Thailand when the Chinese migrated here
late in the Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767 A.D.). The festival
means so much to the Chinese and the Thais of Chinese descent
the same way as the Christmas means to the Westerners.
The Chinese in Thailand have been harmoniously
assimilated into the Thais but they have passed on their traditions
and customs up to the present time as is evidenced by the
fact that one of their festivals, Trut Chin, has
been observed continuously for a long time. It has become
one of the most exciting and spectacular celebrations in Thailand.
Chinese New Year is the first day of the Chinese lunar month
which is regarded as the first day of the spring season (the
Chun season in Chinese; roughly from February to
April which is the time to start growing plants). During these
months, the weather is excellent. Thus, Trut Chin
is called "Chun Jie" Day in Chinese. As China is
an agricultural country, at the beginning of the growing season,
there is a ritual to pay homage to gods and goddesses as well
as ancestors to ask for a good harvest.
A few days before New Year's Eve, the Chinese will do a big
cleaning. When the New Year begins, they will have days off
to perform a ritual to worship gods, goddesses and ancestors.
Besides, they usually take this opportunity to pay visits
to their senior relatives and go on vacations. This practice
is the origin of the terms "Buying day, Worshipping day
and Observing day."
"Buying day" is the day before New Year's Eve. People
who have not yet finished shopping or preparing things need
to finish doing it within the "Buying day" as after
this day, shops will close for several days.
"Worshipping day" is the day that each house performs
rituals to worship their ancestors. It is on this day that
the whole family gather together and red envelopes containing
money as gifts or angpao are given away. In the morning,
they worship the gods of land and the ancestors in the afternoon.
Figures of Chinese gods
"Observing day" is Trut Chin day or New's Year's Day.
On this day everybody will do and say only auspicious things.
During the festival, the Thais of Chinese descent will wear
red clothes which are believed to bring blessing. There is also
a prohibition against sweeping the floor for they fear that
the luck and blessing will be swept away.
This "observing day" is sometimes
called "going out" day. It derived from the fact
that when the children and employees get angpao, they will
go out to have fun.
In addition, during the festival, the Chinese have a custom
to take four oranges with them when visiting their senior
relatives. The orange in the Chinese language is called "kik"
meaning good luck. So, an exchange of oranges means an exchange
The Thais of Chinese descent
homage to their gods and goddesses.
Normally, the host will keep two out of
the four oranges wrapped in a large handkerchief and replace
them with two new oranges from the host. Some families may
prepare "khanom-ii" to serve their guests as well.
Khanom-ii are sweetened Chinese rice dumplings whose colour
is pink. The easy-to-chew characteristic of the dessert signifies
good fortune and the convenience in doing everything.
The Thais of Chinese descent
a procession of Chinese New Year
celebrations in Nakhon Sawan.
The tradition of
angpao is mostly done in the well-to-do families.
Employers will give angpao to employees. Parents
will give angpao to their sons and daughters. When
the children get a job, or get married, they will give angpao
to their parents.
well-to-do parents then will give back an equal amount of
money or more than that to their children.
This money must be from the parents' purse not the same banknotes
received from their children. Brothers or sisters-in-law should
give angpao to younger brothers or sisters of their
husband's or wife's. Aunts and uncles will give angpao
to their nieces and nephews as well.
Legend of the Chinese
legend goes like this: about 1,000 years ago, a monster called
Nian having a tiger body and a pair of wings, went
around several villages to catch humans and eat them. Villagers
could not figure out how to protect themselves so they consulted
a sage to find a way out. The
sage had observed the monster for some time and found that
it would appear on the New Year's Eve. He, thus suggested
the villagers gather together and chase the monster away.
When the monster arrived at the village, it was driven away
by the shouting and the sounds of drumbeat and firecrackers
and never returned. After that, the villagers marked the next
day as the beginning of the year which later was named after
the monster "Nian" which means year.
Red colour is a symbol of
Chinese New Year,
Formerly, the Chinese New Year was celebrated
for a very long period of 15 days but at present it is reduced
to two or three days.
Thailand, the Chinese New Year is celebrated on a grand scale
in Bangkok at Chinatown on Yaowarat
Road and in Nakhon Sawan Province. The two boast magnificent
dragon processions and lion dances which have become the symbols
of the festival.
Dragons are referred to as the divine
mythical creature that brings with it prosperity and good
fortune and lions are a symbol of courage, stability and all
noble things.The celebrations at Nakhon Sawan are known to
be larger and more magnificent than those in Bangkok with
thousands of visitors flocking there every year.
Regarding Bangkok, during the festival,
will be crowded with fun seekers who are attracted by the
allure of food stalls and entertainments. In recent years,
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was invited to preside
over the opening ceremony of the festival here.
Nakhon Sawan's Chinese New
procession features a beautiful
lady dressed as Guanyin,
the goddess of mercy.
And in Nakhon Sawan, you will find a grand
celebration full of excitement throughout the 11-day-period
of the festival. The procession of about 1,500 participants
usually comes with spectacular acrobatic performances such
as climbing up an over 10-metre pole to get the money reward
on the top of it.
You can also have a great time if you are in other major provinces
such as Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Songkhla and Phuket
because the festival is celebrated boisterously nearly nationwide.
Photos by Induang
King's Birthday Celebration Arch
Bangkok in the
past was admired as the Venice of the East because
of its criss-cross canals and rivers. Bangkokians
had used waterways as their main way of transportation
until the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868) when there
was a growing trend towards commuting on land. More
and more roads have been constructed since then. And
stories have accumulated about the roads and buildings
and people living along them.
Many events both
good and bad have occurred on them. Several of them
were named after their landmarks or in memory of persons.
Some of the buildings have reflected the spirit of
the time and the architectural style of the period.
As time went by, both the roads and their buildings
underwent renovations and reconstruction, while their
stories are almost forgotten. To acquaint you with
some roads in Bangkok of historical or cultural importance,
Thaiways presents in this column a series of stories
about them which are adapted from the Old Roads in
Bangkok by Thawee Watngam. -Ed.
King Rama I (1782-1809) decided to build his Grand
Palace at its present site, he ordered Chinese communities
living there to move to live in Sampheng district
across the Ong-ang Canal. As most Chinese immigrants
were engaged in trade, later Sampeng became a commercial
area and grew more and more crowded. It was King Rama
IV (1851-1868) who considered that a road to facilitate
transportations should be paved to the district to
allow the existing communities to expand. This was
the origin of Yaowarat Road built to have a width
of 20 metres and a length of 1,532 metres, beginning
from the Ong-ang Canal near Saphan Han Bridge to Wat
and (C3) in the Map of Bangkok. The name of the
road was bestowed by the king.
Road is nowadays an ideal place for tourists in Bangkok
to have a touch of the Chinese atmosphere. Here you
can taste Chinese food in one of several Chinese restaurants
and fruits imported from China, which are sold on
stalls along the sidewalks. It is a center of famous
quality gold shops and a good place to shop Chinese-style
souvenirs and Chinese medical herbs.
Road also provides locations for several banks, companies
and hotels. At the end of the road is Wat Traimit
which houses the world's biggest gold Buddha image,
presumably 700 or 800 years old. Also at the end of
the road stands a brand new magnificent Chinese-style
memorial archway completed just in time to join the
grand celebration of His Majesty the King's 72nd birthday
anniversary in December 1999.