Ong Chun/Wangchuan/Wangkang ceremony, rituals and related practices for maintaining the sustainable connection between man and the ocean

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Inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People's Republic of China and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia, 2019

The Ong Chun ceremony and related practices are rooted in folk customs of worshipping Ong Yah, a deity believed to protect people and their lands from disasters. Developed in China’s Minnan region between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the element is now centered in the coastal areas of Xiamen Bay and Quanzhou Bay, as well as in the Chinese communities in Melaka, Malaysia. Those who died at sea are considered as ‘good brothers’ who become lonely, wandering souls. The ceremony begins by people gathering at the seaside to welcome Ong Yah to temples or clan halls, while lamp poles are erected to summon ‘good brothers’ and deliver them from torment. In this way, the element has been celebrated as ‘doing good deeds’. Performances head the procession and clear a path for Ong Yah’s barge (wooden or paper-made models). These performances include gaojia and gezai opera, different dances, comprising dragon and lion dances, and puppet shows, among many others. The element evokes the historical memory of ancestors’ ocean-going, reshapes social connections when confronted with emergencies such as shipwrecks, and honours the harmony between man and the ocean. It also bears witness to the intercultural dialogue among communities.

On 2 November, 2016, people of Lyucuo Community (Tong’an District, Xiamen, China), conducted the ritual for welcoming Ong Yah at the Yingwang Square near the northeast coast.
On 13 June, 2017, Chen Shuilang, a bearer of decor-painting was making oil- colour decoration on the wooden body of Ong Yah barge at the dockyard of Longzhudian Temple, located in Shapowei Community (Siming District, Xiamen, China). near the northeast coast.
At far back, clearly visible a very high pole with lanterns on it (Ko-Teng) indicating an invitation to all good brothers/wandering souls that a Ong Chun ceremony is going on and they are invited to go on board.
On 26 November, 2016, Lyu Duqing, Chairperson of Huazang’an Temple Council, and Gan Suan Hong (right), Vice Chairman of Yong Chuan Tian Temple Committee (Melaka) acted as Chief Directors of Ong Chun Ceremony around Huazang’an Temple, Lyucuo Community (Tong'an Distircit, Xiamen, China)
Devotees of various age groups and gender can be seen praying, presided by a Taoist ritualist, to invoke blessing for participating in this meritorious act.
On 26 November, 2016, the ritual for presenting offerings to Ong Yah and arraying performance, as components of Ong Chun ceremony, were carried out in Lyucuo community (Tong’an District, Xiamen, China).
A group of Taoist ritualist performing ritual at the cross road, inviting the wondering souls/good brothers to board the Ong Yah Barge witness by Medium Assistant (Fuluan Handler)
On 14 December, 2013, members from Zhongshan Community (Haicang District, Xiamen, China) along with other participants scrambled to carry the Ong Chun, escorting Ong Yah to head for his inspection tour.
The Ong Yah Statuette is paraded on a sedan chair, carried by people of different ethnic, in this case, the Chinese and the Indian community.
The Ong Yah Barge or Ong Chun passing through Melaka City Centre and being watched by the public and tourist.