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Hong Kong

singapore flagNan Yin at Thian Hock Keng Temple

Last night (1 Aug 2007), the Siong Leng Musical Association ,湘灵音乐社, performed at the Thian Hock Keng Temple 天福宫on the occasion of the birthday of Guan Yin, 观音,观世音,观音菩萨,also known as Goddess of Mercy and Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. 

Sponsored by the Singapore Hokkein Huay Kuan (Clan association) 新加坡福建会馆and Thian Hock Keng, ,the Nan Yin ,南音,performance was held in the front courtyard of the Thian Hock Keng Temple and opened to the public.

The courtyard was crowded with audiences long before the scheduled time. Among them were VIP guests, veteran Nanyin audience, young professionals as well as Caucasians making the performance an event that reached out to multiple social segments.

When the performance began, the Nanyin music, the ancient temple courtyard, artistes in traditional costume and strategically located lighting created an ambience that seemed to transport audiences into a different cultural realm.

Siong Leng has been able to recruit many young talented performances to learn the ancient art. The seniors in the group were very encouraging and supportive of the younger members even interviewing them about their overseas training.

Audience were obviously mesmerized by the performances and responded with encouraging applause at the end of each event.

Such events manifest the role of Thian Hock Keng and Hokien Clan Association in promoting of traditional arts and in reaching out to the general audience. Traditional roles of Chinese social institutions unfolding in a modern, multi cultural and globalize context.

Below is the event as recorded by an audience, Mr. Victor Yue.

Hi folks, Another wonderful evening it was that went well despite the threatening skies. This is one of the three times that Thian Hock Keng vibrates with the Southern Sounds (Nan Yin) as Siong Leng Musical Association performs and sings in honor of Guan Yin. It is also the time where the older folks look forward to. One lady was telling the President of the Association that she has been following the performance for the past 4 years!

This night saw the comperes presenting in Mandarin, Hokkien and English. I noticed some Caucasians in the crowd. I remember some time ago, they had one compere who actually presented in the ancient language. "Wah, cool!" I thought. The tones were so nice and soothing to the ears, unlike the coarser Hokkien (Minan Yi) these days. (^^) Maybe, in the future, with a projector showing the narration, we could hear the ancient language again. (^^)

We saw a group of three generations performing, carrying on this very ancient tradition and arts. Even, a visiting artiste, Ms Wei, commented that she was touched that faraway Singapore could maintain and preserve such arts of the old. With the youngest performer, probably in the primary school, Siong Leng shows a very strong cohesive troupe and also shows that there is hope that this tradition will survive and continue. The challenge will be getting the Singaporeans, especially, the Chinese to appreciate this music. With the ability to read Mandarin, there is still hope. With the ability to speak and hear Hokkien, better still.

As I looked around the courtyard that was almost spilling over (there must have been more than 200 people)… they had to keep on taking out for chairs ... I saw more silver hair. Yes, there were pockets of youngsters, but these older folks filled the courtyard of Thian Hock Keng. And certainly chairs are required for them. There was an old man sitting on a wheelchair with two tanks (oxygen?) and tubes in his nose enjoying the performance. Ah, it must have brought him to the days of the old, the old village of his younger days. The songs were familiar to these folks. They clapped their hands softly to the rhythm of the beat and music, which might sound somewhat melancholic to some.

As in tradition for the past 20 years, after singing the song composed in the Association dedicated to Guan Yin, with the leading members of the Association and Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, led by a venerable, with the audience all facing towards the main hall, the members followed him in repeating words of prayers in Hokkien.

It was another wonderful evening for the Nan Yin lovers.

Victor Singapore
Article contributed by Mr. Victor Yue

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Sculpture of Guan Yin in Thian Hock Keng
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