Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chinese New Year Pt. Three - River Hongbao Carnival

Hey all,

And part three of our CNY blog series is on the amazing carnival they have over the week long period, that ends with the spectacular Chingay Parade, which I will be sharing with you tomorrow.

But first I have to tell you about the River Hongbao, which was the most spectacular carnival I've ever seen, seriously, and I've been to a lot of places.

Into its 24th year, the River Hongbao has been Singapore's annual signature event to usher in the Chinese New Year. It has everything from mouthwatering food street and cooking demonstrations, handcrafts and souvenirs, traditional Chinese song and dance performances and cultural activities such as Chinese Lantern Riddles and competitions.

At first you think it's like any carnival, but then you walk around the corner and onto a floating marvel. Lights drip from the sky and there are dozens upon dozens of majestic large-scale displays of popular Chinese mythical characters.

I can't tell you how overwhelming it is. Seriously, it's hard to know where to look next. First off, you have the God of Fortune staring down at you. Every once in a while he showers passerbys with gold confetti, to symbolize good luck.

He's got to be as big as a a three story building and as colorful as a rainbow. The "gold" litters the floating dock and dozens of the faithful gather to pick up the pieces and keep for luck.

The God of Fortune is one character that you'll see all over the place. He's a big deal over here and wanders around blessing people during the holiday.

The stage shows were going on as we arrived and we watched amazed as acrobats, singers, wrestlers, and dancers of every possible ethnic group took their turn.

The talent, the color and the performances were more than I expected at a roadside carnival, but that should have told me what I had to look forward to. The rest of the carnival was beyond amazing.

First off, they had something that made my mouth drop open in awe. As you know, dragons are huge in the Far East, and even more so during the Chinese New Year, whether it is the year of the Dragon or not. But this was absolutely amazing to me.

In the picture to the right, you'll see my handsome husband standing in front of a dragon. But not just any dragon, this one is made entirely of spun cane sugar!

This is a type of Lantern Art, where Chinese craftsmen sculpt beautiful images out of sugar. This dragon was perfected using several thousand kilograms of sugar. When this sculpture is lit properly it glows a gorgeous amber color and it was hard to believe it was made of sugar in the first place. Only the fact they were selling lollies made of the amber-c0lored sugar made me believe it was actually what they said it was. The work was so exquisite.

Then there were the 12 Chinese Zodiac signs. All life sized and animated they showed the characters growling, snarling, running or standing as they towered over the crowd.

Above is the Tiger and the Snake, again all huge and lit up like Christmas trees. Also, with them is a placard that tells a little about each sign. My Chinese zodiac symbol is the rat, and I've picked up a few trinkets with info about the little critter.

Now each of the zodiac symbols is huge, you can see from the pics above. And there are 12 of them, so you can get a picture of just how big this area of carnival is. And I haven't even started yet.

There are booth after booth of food and drinks to be had, dozens of handicrafts, my favorite being the Chinese paper cutting, similar to Scherenschnitte, which is the German version. I'm going to get one of those before I leave. They are exquisite.

Then there were the other displays. This first one was amazing and I had to include it today. It shows a peacock and a dragon, which is the symbolic meaning for yin and yang. Female and male. What was amazing to me was this display was made of of dishware. China to be exact. That's right. China. And it's beautiful. As you can see from the picture on the right, you can see the dragon's head is made from plates and Chinese spoons among other things. They are wired and glued together and I have to tell you, I was impressed!

Now there was a ton of other gorgeous displays so I'll end with a few more pictures, but I have to say that I was completely and totally impressed by this carnival. It was a cultural treasure trove and we stayed and enjoyed for a very long time. I'll be back tomorrow with the last of the stories about the Chinese New Year.

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams


Anonymous said...

Hi CJ,
Gorgeous pictures! Looks and sounds like a truly awesome experience.
Thanks again!
Sara J. ~ : ]

Phylis said...

Wow again! I'm playing catch up so my comments are all backwards! LOL Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

CJ England said...

Sara J,

It was beyond beautiful. And so big I walked around with my mouth hanging open.

Maybe it was because it was just so different and foreign?


CJ England said...


Welcome! Backwards or forewards, I'm glad that you're around!