The beautifully preserved Chinese-inspired Candra Naya building in West Jakarta was a fitting place over the weekend for Peh Cun, a traditional boat festival that attracted hundreds of people.
The festival, which ran from Friday to Sunday in the building at Green Central City, is also known in Indonesia as Festival Bacang.
“It’s one of the most important traditional Chinese festivals after Imlek [Chinese New Year] and the Mooncake festival,” said Priyanto Chang, general manager of Nanfeng Nusantara, an Indonesian Peranakan music group.
The festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a dedicated and loyal government official, who served during the Chu dynasty (approximately 328 to 288 B.C.). Slandered by a member of the royal family, Yuan was banished from the kingdom. Saddened, he jumped into the river.
People who believed in Yuan’s innocence took their boats to the river to find his body. They threw bacangs (Chinese rice cakes with beef or pork filling) in the river so the fish would eat them and leave Yuan’s dead body alone.
Yuan’s body was never found, but the Chinese people still celebrate the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese calendar as the Peh Cun festival.
The festivities take place in Chinese communities in several big cities in Indonesia, including Medan, Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Pontianak. In Jakarta’s celebration, many Chinese traditional dances, songs, games and performances were featured.
Nanfeng Nusantara performed at the festival in Jakarta on Saturday. Visitors gathered by the stage and sang along to Indonesian folk songs, such as “Dayung Sampan” (from Tangerang), “Si Jali-Jali” (from Jakarta) and “Rasa Sayange” (from Maluku), on guzheng (Chinese zither), ruan (Chinese guitar) and erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle).
Read more: Jakarta Globe