"Wayanging" for more then 100 years

Pictures by: 
Jonathan Choo

It is a sight dwindling in numbers on the Singapore mainland.

But on Pulau Ubin, the tradition of wayang still burns strong.

Every year, the island’s town centre comes alive on Vesak Day with the staging of wayang, known as Teochew opera or “Chao Zhou Da Xi”.

The week-long festivities started on the eve of the birthday of Taoist deity Tua Pek Kong and ended last Tuesday. Tua Pek Kong’s birthday coincides with Vesak Day, a holiday observed by Buddhists.

Many residents who grew up on Pulau Ubin have grown to understand the Teochew opera although they were never taught the dialect. 

The century-old custom is by the Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple, a 144-year-old Taoist temple, said its custodian Doreen Lim, who is in her 50s.

She has lived on Pulau Ubin for more than a decade.

Mr Soh Geok Hock, a former Pulau Ubin native who now lives in Bedok, still makes it a point to attend the shows and catch up with his old neighbours.

The 66-year-old said: “The wayang is a necessity. It must be done for Tua Pek Kong to watch.”

The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on June 3, 2013.