KUALA LUMPUR – With Chinese New Year just around the corner, vendors at the already lively Petaling Street get more creative and enthusiastic in promoting food and decorative items for the celebration.
The street, dubbed as Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, is lined with old buildings and shops that are over a 100 years old. They are structures which have witnessed plenty of the city’s historical events.
Despite the modern skyscrapers and developing infrastructure that surround the area housing a Chinese-majority community, Chinese culture and traditions remain strong.
Former tour guide Cheng Fui Lien, 37, initiated the “Jelajah Warisan Petaling Street” programme themed “Jejak Tahun Baru Cina” as she found the culture and history of the Chinese community something worth delving into.
The programme sees Cheng taking groups of not more than 25 people on educational visits to Petaling Street to learn more about the m any ways the Chinese community celebrate the auspicious festival.
The programme is conducted from 7am to 11am on weekends from Jan 4 through March 7. It provides the public, especially Chinese youths, the opportunity to explore the traditions of their ancestors.
“Besides revisiting the traditions of our ancestors, we also want to raise among the city people awareness and appreciation of historical buildings, which are increasingly being destroyed due to development,” she said.
GETTING TO KNOW CHINESE CUSTOMS
Cheng begins the tour by briefing participants on the routes they will be taking and the places where they can find Chinese veterans who still practise the customs of their forefathers.
She said there were residents of Petaling Street who have lived there for three generations and maintained the customs practised by their ancestors. This can be seen in the architecture of their home to their daily rituals and taboos.
“This excursion allows participants to interact with the residents and learn more about Chinese culture and customs as well as sample traditional delicacies.
“They will see how traditional cakes are prepared and hear the various different dialects used. This is because the Chinese have different cultures although they are of the same ethnicity,” she said.
Participants are taken to Chinese houses of worship where Cheng informs them about the customs, taboos and history behind the construction of the temple.
“There is a history to each temple and the deities within. The Chinese perform different prayers to the different deities,” she said.
THE’JELAJAH WARISAN PETALING STREET’ PROGRAMME
To cater to Malaysia’s multi-racial community and foreign tourists, the programme is conducted in three languages namely Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin.
Cheng usually carries out two sessions a month to promote the history of Petaling Street to the public.
Those interested can register as a participant and obtain information on the programme through the Facebook page ‘Kaki Jelajah Warisan’.
Although some of the old buildings had been torn down to make way for the MRT project, veterans still visit the areas to reminisce.
“The younger generation must realise the significance held by these old buildings that remain and defend this heritage. Exposing them to the history behind the buildings helps increase their appreciation towards it,” she said. – BERNAMA