The 15th day of the 2nd lunar month is generally considered to be the birthday of Laozi, 老子, the founder of Taoism, 道教. This year, three Taoist organizations in Singapore, Sabah, Malaysia and Semanrang, Indonesia have put up a Transnational Joint Celebration for Taoist Day.
A series of events in Sabah, Semarang and Singapore ended with a celebration dinner in Singapore on the 1st April 2010 organized by the Singapore Taoist Mission, 新加坡道教协会.
The dinner began with an official ceremony and representatives from Singapore Sabah and Indoneisa were invited to the stage for prayers. Next, representatives from various faiths in Singapore were invited onstage as part of Singapore’s Inter religious program.
Dinner started with serving of longevity buns to commemorate the birthday of Taoism’s founder. During the dinner, Taoist Master Lee Zhi Wang, 李至旺, announced that Taoist Mission has found a new home at the current Qing De Hui located next to Thian Hock Keng Temple. Master Lee’s good news received a thunderous applause from the audience.
Qing De Hui, 庆德会, is a family shrine law founded in 1831 shortly after the arrival of the British. With the existing arrangement, the building will be restored and Qing De Hui members will continue to make 5 offerings a year to their ancestor while Taoist Mission has a building for them to conduct their activities.
Taoist Mission’s move to Qing De Hui alongside Thian Hock Keng and opposite Hokkien Clan Association will certainly generate much cultural capital for the greater Singapore Chinatown area.
The other main theme of the dinner was their appeal for 15th day of the 2nd lunar month to be designated as a Taoist Day, 道教节, and a public holiday in Singapore. They have lobbied for about a decade and at the dinner; guests were invited to sign a petition to support their efforts.
Taoist culture arrived in Singapore along with Chinese migrants so its presence in Singapore is at least as long as Singapore’s history from the time of British arrival in 1819. There is no doubt Taoist ideals have shaped the cultural landscape of Chinese migrants influencing the ways they organized themselves and also in mutual support in times of stress or uncertainty.
In recent years, Taoist organizations have reached out to a wider audience and have offered programs to help people understand and discover their Taoist heritage. Many, especially the younger and English educated, have re-discovered their Taoist heritage even if they may not perceive themselves as Taoist.
The revival is also reflected in the ranks of Taoist priest if the Taoist Day dinner is an indication. Many of the priests were young and bilingual, effectively reaching out to both Mandarin and English speaking audiences.
With a historical setting of Taoism in Singapore, a new era of revival and almost a decade of petition, should the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month be declared a Taoist Day and a public holiday in Singapore?