Tag Archives: Malaysia

Other Photographers Show Their Stuff

Oh how we pine for those bundles of Joss Sticks.  So, to help those of us still looking for a Nine Emps fix – I’m passing on some work by some other photographers.  The photojournalists (of course) were the first in.  But the other photographers have been busy for the past week, editing and posting.  The photos below are the property of the photographers and are copyrighted.  Thanks and kudos to them for giving me permission to post them here.

You can start with a visit to my favourite Nine Emperor Gods blogger, Sien Liew and his up-your-toot-blogspot.  I think his blog should be called “The Reverent Irreverent” or maybe the “Irreverent Reverent.”  He makes me smile.  Be sure to read the captions.  Sean’s blog combines entertainment, religion and photography.  Who could ask for more!?!

The next place you should go is to Rahman Roslan’s blog.  His work always knocks me right off my chair.  I love what he did in the few hours he was at the festival on the Ninth day.  Check out how he sees the light and how he captures the essence of the place.  He’s a photojournalist extraordinaire.  The B&W is quite effective at a festival that screams colour.  You can check out his work on his blog here: http://rahmanroslan.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/nine-emperor-gods/

Then check out Raja Indra Putra’s photos on his FB.  This is a photographer who really should have a blog. Ripi is a great street photographer, who is always insightful.  He sees a lot of things differently than most of us.  Gotta love this stuff.  He says this is his first trip to the Nine Emperor God Festival but it’s hard to believe that when you see his work.  He is wise beyond his years!  When you go to his albums here and here, be sure to tell him that he should have a blog!  I hope those albums are public.  If not, friend him and let him know he should have a blog. 🙂 He’ll thank me for that!

I recommend that you have a look at Matt Brandon’s blog for some shots from Penang.  Matt thought I could embed his slideshow in my blog, but he doesn’t know me very well!!  And his blog/website is very upscale (read secure) in keeping with his photography, so I had to resort to grabbing an image. Matt is new to the world of the Nine Emperor’s so it is interesting to see how he applies his photography skills to the colour, lights and drama that is the festival in Penang.  I think you will get lost in a lot of his other portfolios when you open up his site. Exquisite work.

And if you are still hungry for images, go to Yee Loon’s Facebook album.  The dozen photos posted there leave us asking for more.He has been photographing at Ampang for awhile now, has developed some good access and personal relationships and you can see in his photos that he plans ahead and anticipates well.  That’s an important part of photographing something like this and Yee Loon does it well.

And here’s one last one, for now.  Fresh, enthusiastic, inspiring.  A young couple, traveling the world, had an incredible experience at the Nine Emperor Gods festival in Ampang.  Check out the post on their blog to see how much fun they had with red turtles.  Given the enthusiasm for exploring, it’s easy to think that they have many more rewarding adventures ahead.  Just another reason to love the Nine Emperor Gods festival.  And I love this because they had a look at my blog before they visited the festival and thanked me for the information!  Rewarding.

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*Sweet* in JB

How much fun can you have with lollipops?!?It was truly a sweet moment. I looked around and lollipops were everywhere.  “Photo Op!!”

A short while earlier, the temple Sifu, Wee Ah Moi, was in trance as the young disciple of Guan Yin, Siang Chai Yah.  She was laughing and telling jokes and behaving like a 7 yr old.  When she had talked for awhile, she smiled at me and held out her hand to me.  The whole room gasped!  She was giving me the first lollipop and, not only that, she was giving me TWO!  Very blessed was I.  I thanked her and tucked them away quickly – the not-so-secret stash of a lollipop lover.  I didn’t realize until later just how sweet that moment was.

Devotees were approaching her, hands extended, asking her questions and enjoying her company…but really asking for a lollipop!

Hmmmmm, Siang Chai Yah would say, “I wonder if I should give you this lollipop?

They do look good…  Should I save one for myself?

After awhile, Siang Chai Yah stood up and threw the sweets towards the excited crowd. No use spending time asking questions!  All they really want after all is a sweet!

Within a few minutes, the Sifu had come out of trance and the crowd dispersed and that’s when I noticed!  I walked in to the temple office and saw this:

and this:

So I stepped back outside the office to have a look around and shot this:

and this:

and this!

How much fun we were all having!  Then I remembered what I had tucked in to my bag.  I had already chewed a little corner off the first one when I thought to photograph it.

Thank you dear Sifu, for helping us all to enjoy the simple and sweeter things in life. 

Awesome Johor Send Off for the Emperor

Nine has always been my number… In Johor, the Emperor who came to the temple this year was brother number Nine, You Bi Da Dao Xing Jun. He is the ninth star of the Big Dipper and one of the two stars invisible to the naked eye.  According to the Sifu, this is the first visit ever for this brother to Sam Siang Keng. So that was the pull for me to be there, I suspect.  The lure of the Invisible Nine.

See my earlier post on visiting Sam Siang Keng on the 2nd day of the festival for background on the festival as celebrated at this Johor Bahru temple.

Day Nine at Sam Siang Keng in Johor was an awesome experience for me.  The place is gentle. The Emperor is revered patiently and lovingly, the way a mother loves a son. I couldn’t help but compare it to the exhilarating chaos of Ampang, and the high-spirited way the Emperor is sent off with noisy, crowded ceremony and thousands of burning joss sticks.  At Sam Siang Keng it was calm in comparison, like someone said OMmmm over the proceedings before they happened.  There was time for reflection, both personal and communal and that was what made it so enjoyable.  Must be the Goddess of Mercy influence.

To say it was calm does not mean that the day lacked colour and action.  Not at all.  I have photos galore. With this post, I will give you an overview of the day, highlighting the important moments. Notice that all of these activities took place in the daylight.  It is interesting to be able to see what is happening and to be openly invited to join in each and every activity.

Upon arriving at about 10am, I joined the procession of devotees to cross the bridge. I know it looks like an all men activity from this photo but everyone was invited to cross the water and be cleansed.  Each person crossing is waved at 7 times with joss paper.  Here is my view as I was crossing with the temple member waving at me and the photographers documenting the moment.  The tall foreign lady was a novelty at first, but it didn’t take long until the photographers were more concerned with keeping me out of their photos!

The lovely and kind Sifu, Wee Ah Moi, was there overseeing the proceedings and she gave me a warm welcome when I returned.  Later on she gave me two lollipops – but we can save that story for another post!  What a charming woman and so loved by her community.

When the opera troupe came to the altar to perform, it was quite dramatic!  Actors from China, I understand.  I’ll try to find out more about this.

After the opera, there was an hour in which the public was invited to share in the temple talismans.  The talismans were removed from the mediums chair where they had been for 9 days under the protection of the Duomo.  Devotees were invited to take their turns (in very orderly fashion) asking the god for a talisman. If their toss of the pui-pui came up as a positive (yin/yang), they were given a talisman, said to be very powerful in curing sickness.

During this time, the altar of the Emperor was very peaceful.  Here one man found time and space to have a conversation.

At about 2:30, the boat was taken out into the courtyard in front to the temple. There was time for a photo or two before the serious business of sending off the Emperor began.

When the urn was removed from behind the curtain, the sifu, in trance, sang a beautiful lament as farewell to her Emperor son. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  It was for me, the ultimate in romanticization of the Nine Emperor Gods festival.

As I commented in my earlier post, this Sifu is in her 80’s and is still guiding the temple through the Nine Emperor Gods festival, as she has for decades.  The small microphone is used now so that all the devotees, inside and outside the temple, can hear the words of the goddess Duomo as she says good bye and thanks her son for visiting.  To the banging of firecrackers to ward off any danger, the Duomo followed the urn outside where it was placed in the chariot and the procession began its journey to the sea.

We rode buses to Danga Bay.  I presume that is modern technology at its convenient best, just as Ampang Kow Ong Yah now uses the truck to go to the river. Everyone used to walk.  In this case, devotees are invited to the sea for the send off, many riding buses provided by the temple.  When we arrived, the yellow boat was in the sea, and the dragon, the lions and hundreds of devotees were there to pay their respects.  The urn was removed from its chariot and placed in the boat.

Once away from shore, the boat was set alight. Unlike in Penang where the yellow boat is circled three times and then left on its own, the boat here is watched carefully until it is completely submerged and no debris is left floating in the water.  I suppose there is fear of setting fire to Singapore and causing an international incident!

As the sun got lower in the sky, we watched the Emperor’s boat slowing burn away in to the water.  Yin and Yang, Water and Fire, the world in balance once again.  I have a lot more stories.  In closing – one more photo.  I am humbled by this woman’s wisdom, vision and guidance.  Thank you and God bless you too!

Of course, I can’t wait for next year already!!  So I will keep posting to make the time go faster.  Check in now and then for updates.  I’ve got stories of lollipops and more…  Cheryl

Schedule and Procession Route for Ninth Day at Hong Kong St Tow Boh Keong

Here is what I have heard the schedule is like for the Ninth Day, October 6th.

There will be quiet prayers to the Emperor tonight, Day 8, with special offerings of fruit and food that the Aunties are preparing right now.

Tomorrow (Day 9) the day will be busy with preparations for the evening rituals – cleaning and sharpening the swords and skewers that the mediums will use, moving the float out to the middle of the street, building the Passageway of Safekeeping.  Many devotees will come to Hong Kong St to pay their respects to the Emperor and pray for the health and prosperity of their families.At about 7pm, the Passage of Safekeeping will be ready in front of the temple and devotees will be invited to cross through the doors, as a cleansing ritual.  At about this time, the god (most likely Tiong Tua Guan Suai) will be invited to the temple and, all going well, the other gods will follow.  At this point (8pm?), the mediums from other temples will start arriving and pay their respects to the Emperor, before entering trance and calling the gods.  We can expect somewhere around 15 mediums at Hong Kong St temple.At the same time, floats from other temples in the area begin assembling on Lebuh Chulia, at the end of Hong Kong St for the procession.  These are non-Nine Emperor God temples that are showing their respect and support for Tow Boh Keong, Hong Kong St.  At latest count there are 18 temples joining the procession.

At 10pm the procession will start to move.  It takes about an hour and a half for the procession to follow the 2.5 km route and arrive at the Yeoh Jetty.  Here is the route:Hong Kong St (also known as Jln Cheong Fatt Tze) to Lebuh Carnarvon, where they make a big u-turn and come back past the temple.  Then they turn left of Lebuh Dr Lim Chwee Long for a short distance.  The next turn is left onto Lebuh Pantai, for a few blocks, then right on Gat Lebuh Chulia, then right on Pengkalan Weld and along to Yeoh Jetty.

The Tow Boh Keong banner and the VIPs will lead the procession, followed by the participating temples, and finishing with the Tow Boh Keong contributions, including Tow Pek Gong, the ceremonial boat, the yellow boat and the large float carrying the urn of the Emperor.

Things to watch for:

On Lebuh Carnarvon, there will be a time when the procession is on both sides of the street – double the excitement!

At the intersection of Lebuh Dr LChL, there is potential to intersect with the procession of the McCallum Rd temple as they head down to the jetty.

Along Lebuh Pantai there will be altars set up by families and businesses along the sides of the road and the mediums often pause there.  As we cross Lebuh Melayu a medium from the temple comes out to pay respects to the Emperor and the other gods as they pass.

As the procession turns on to Pengkalan Weld from Gat Lebuh Chulia there is the potential to meet the procession from the Burma Rd temple as they move to the jetty.

It has been suggested that the  Monkey god could help us be everywhere and do everything as he can split and become many – a whole army in fact!  Good guy to know.

Travelling with Tow Boh Keong, Hong Kong Street, Penang

 

Let’s start with a photo of the Hong Kong St Temple leaving for the procession in Air Hitam (Farlim Temple) on Saturday evening. It’s been a goal/dream of mine to ride in a lion dance truck at Chinese New Year.  But this might be better.  I got to ride with Tow Pek Gong (can you see his beard blowing in the wind?), the beating drums and symbols, two awakened lions up front, and a group of guys who wanted to look very serious when I took their photo.  Here’s the view out the front, with the yellow boat in the truck leading the way along Lebuh Kimberly.The procession was great fun too.  Farlim temple sits up on a hill and I slogged up there when we first arrived to see some mediums being skewered with what I like to call “the Penang-style” implements.  Could they be a little longer!?  These guys are brave.  Later on the parade route, this guy was actually trying to smile for the camera.At one point during the procession, one of these mediums was doing a twirling action with firecrackers on the end of the skewer, like the one pictured here, and the string of firecrackers flew off and in to the crowd!  That’s crazy!I also wanted to share this photo of Kow Ong Yah, whom I hadn’t encountered in Penang in the first few days of the festival.  There is a lot more of the Tow Boh/Duo Mou worship in Penang along with the gods that I am learning come with that.  I was pleased as punch to see him and it reminded me of my good friends in Ampang and all the fun they must be having.  This really is how I like to see him!  An apparition.The procession was a good hike for the team from Hong Kong St who carried the Emperor’s yellow boat for the 8 km procession route.  We were all pretty tired by the time we got back into the trucks, and the ride home was almost surreal.  One of the lions even decided to sleep.There are so many events happening for the Nine Emperor Gods festival in Penang that I can’t possibly come close to providing a schedule for all of the temples. We are getting ready for the send off on Wednesday evening, that much I know.  Many of the temples will be making their way to the sea to send off the Emperor in a joyous mingling of fire and water.  There will be a lot of rituals and prayers at the Hong Kong St temple for the last few days of the festival, mainly in the evening.  Stay tuned.

The Nine Emperors Arrive in Penang, 2011

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Wow to Penang and the way they celebrate the Nine Emperor Gods festival! There are several Nine Emperor God temples in Penang and last night they invited the Emperor with panache. Lamps were raised, mediums went in to trance, yellow curtains were closed and the energy was awesome as the community upheld traditions. Hard to sleep at all.

I spent the evening at the lovely Tow Boh Keong temple on Hong Kong St. Their invitation ceremony is a quiet ceremony, steeped in tradition. This temple is regarded as the oldest Nine Emperor God Temple in Malaysia. The power of the temple comes from their determination to preserve the ancient rituals. The preparations are fastidious. Family members have their tasks throughout the day and in the evening they assist in setting up the altar outside the temple. Just before midnight, there was a buzz of activity as all of the old temple artifacts were put in to place, ready to invite the Emperor.
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The lantern was lit and raised.
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The urn for the god was placed on the altar table.

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In the early hours of the morning (Day 1), a Taoist priest recited prayers from a very old manuscript. For almost an hour, his melodic voice mesmerized the small group gathered at the temple. My favorite moment came at the end, when his voice dropped to a whisper and he spoke directly to the god.

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Then he tossed the Puah and the Emperor answered positively on the first request.

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With a Holah! and many smiles, the urn into which the Emperor had descended, was ceremoniously carried in to the temple. The urn was placed in the inner altar and as the curtains closed prayers for health, prosperity and balance of yin and yang began.

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Day 1 is here.
Now off to see what is happening today at the other temples around town.

Tow Boh Keong, Hong Kong St, Georgetown, Penang

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Welcome to Hong Kong St. I met the team last night and we have a great festival planned. Tonight we invite the god. And for the next nine days there will be prayers and processions and good vegetarian food (we are in Penang after all!).
Here are some shots taken yesterday.

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I arrived to see them putting up the bamboo pole of invitation.
This next shot actually says it all about this place – they are a team!!!

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And up it goes at the end of Hong Kong St, marking the location of the festival. I understand that the place where they erected the pole has been exactly the same spot for more than 100 years.

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Because the temple is small, they can use their beautiful, old ornamentations without fear of them being damaged. If you visit you can see these handmade artifacts – painted glass, silk embroidery and more.

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Tonight we welcome the Emperor God! Stay tuned.

20110926-104941.jpg BTW, I’m trying these posts from my iPad. Excuse me while I sort it out. It is rather fun though!

A Day of Preparations at the Nine Emperor Gods Festival

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Saturday was the day that devotees could come to the Ampang temple and get their rooms and beds for this year’s festival dates. It was great to see some friends, observe the temple cleaned up and ready to go, and feel the energy as we get ready to invite the Emperor and his entourage on Monday night.

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There was quite a crowd gathered as the organizing committee worked hard to get the devotees their preferred spaces.

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Meanwhile, the vendors’ supplies were arriving and the mood was jovial.

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Here are members of the organizing committee and some volunteers discussing how it all happens, a little politics, and the value of a good cup of Chinese tea.

See you from the Hong Kong St Temple in Penang!

Kau Ong Yah pays a visit to Ampang last May!


A few months ago the Kau Ong Yah Lam Thian Kiong Temple of Ampang held a 20 Km radius Ancestor and Thanksgiving ritual. It was a beautiful ceremony over several days in which the temple fulfilled its obligations to the Lost Souls roaming about the Ampang area. The festivities were complete with a special visit by Kau Ong Yah, resplendent paper mansions and a huge burning. Here are some of my photos.  This was just one way that the temple is preparing for this year’s Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

Goddess of Mercy

Homes for the Lost Souls – with all the luxuries!

The heavens participated one evening with a great lighting show.

Koh Ong Yah was in residence during the ceremonies

Paper Gods carried to the open lot for burning

Some familiar faces around to help out

It all made for a huge symbolic fire.

Firewalking Ceremony at the Nine Emperor Gods Festival Ampang

The firewalking ceremony at the Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Ampang is the culmination of the festival and brings the world into balance.  Huge crowds turn out to witness hundreds of men cross the firepit as this is the most mystical of the festival rituals. This year (2010) the firewalking will take place on the evening of October 16th and marks the ninth day of the ninth moon and the end of the festival.  Firewalking symbolizes the acceptance of Yang and is closely associated with the bridge crossing ceremony (Yin) of the eighth day.  It has been explained to me that this ritual signifies “sending off the bad luck and ushering in the good luck”.  The power of Fire keeps away evil and helps us to overcome our impurities.

The men (Note: no women allowed) have kept a strict vegetarian diet for the nine days of the festival, wear white clothing (no metal or leather) and yellow head scarves, and each carries a pennant of the Nine Emperor Gods to protect him from harm.  The men walk barefoot across the pit, carrying the temple deities and other ritual paraphernalia, as well as bundles of garments, dried tea leaves, and other precious objects that will benefit from the uplifting power of Yang.  The men act on behalf of all worshipers of the Nine Emperor Gods to bring Yin and Yang into balance.

The bed of coals is prepared beginning in the afternoon of the ninth day and is lit at dusk.  As the flames burn down to coals, the men pray individually to the Emperor and then form an orderly line between the altar and the firepit to await the order to begin walking quickly across the coals.  The procession across the firepit is led by the Taoist priests.  The spirit mediums, in trance, follow to open the way for the others. The crowd seems to get most excited when the chariots are carried quickly across the fire.

When all of the men have crossed the fire pit, the coals are doused with water and then bits of coal are passed out to worshipers.  Believers understand that this coal has been blessed by the emperor and has power to bring luck when taken home.

It is a real honor for these temple workers to represent the wider community.  It takes years of volunteering to be chosen to do this.  Below is a fun photo taken in the office at the temple.  The photo, which was shown to me, is of two organizing committee members crossing the firepit some years ago.  There was much story telling and camaraderie as the men anticipated this year’s ceremony.

If you plan to watch the event you must get there early to get a place along the fence from where you can see.  If you want to photograph the event, you must go earlier than early.  There are a limited number of press passes this year which can be obtained from the office for entry inside the fence.  Sorry ladies – it brings ill-luck to have our fertile “yin” presence inside the sacred area.

If you are early you can watch the spirit mediums bless the area of the firepit before the fire is lit.  As well, there are special ceremonies after the firewalking, including a special tribute to the Nine Emperor Gods by the opera troupe in front of the main altar. The temple is cleared out just before midnight and a final ceremony that I call the “Round and Round” is enacted by the male temple volunteers in which they pass ritual objects from person to person along lines formed between the main altars of the temple.

If you are still full of energy after a night of rejuvenating ritual, you can watch the procession to send off the Emperor.  It leaves the temple about 3AM on the morning of the tenth day – October 17, 2010.  See you there!