Temples rejoice as visitors return

JOHOR BARU: Chinese temples in Johor, both big and small, are seeing better days with the return of visitors and tourists.

The presence of larger crowds, including devotees and tourists from Singapore, was a huge relief, said Federation of Johor Chinese Temples Associations president Datuk Chong Kim Cheong.

“The present situation is a far cry from the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic when temples were virtually empty and public donations were near zero.

“We noticed the number of visitors at temples, such as the popular ones in Muar, Pengerang and Johor Baru, increasing over the past few months, especially after the Malaysia-Singapore border reopened.

“The visitors are taking it as an opportunity to not only pray for good luck and health, but also to sight-see,” he said in an interview.

Other activities such as deities’ birthday celebrations and fundraising dinners also managed to pull in the crowd, he added.

“It is encouraging to see more visitors, though it is still about half of what it was during pre-pandemic times,” said Chong, adding that there were about 5,000 temples in Johor, which is one of the highest nationwide.

Asked whether temples are planning to hold events or ge tai (stage shows typically set alongside outdoor altars) in conjunction with the upcoming Hungry Ghost Festival, Chong said many were still keeping to small-scale celebrations.

The Hungry Ghost Festival or Zhong Yuan Festival falls on Aug 12 this year.