Tag Archives: Procession

Oct 22 (Day 8 Bridge Crossing) and Oct 23 (Day 9 Firewalking) at Kow Ong Yah Ampang

If you thought Day 6 rocked at the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Ampang, hold on to your hat as we head in to Day 8 and Day 9.  The next two days are all about bringing the cosmos back into balance through special ceremonies.

You might want to look at this post on my website instead.  If so, find it here: cheryljhoffmann.com

Check the schedule in the side bar for start times.  Photographers should come early.  These are photos that I took in 2010 of the festivities in Ampang.  They will give you an idea of what you will see there during the last two days of the festival.

DAY 8 – Bridge Crossing.  See my post from two years ago about Day 8. On Day 8 (Monday Oct 22) the bridge walking ceremony starts at 8pm – a time when the community can participate in a ritual of cleansing and blessing.  It is the day of bringing “yin”, our watery side, into balance.  Kow Ong Yah sits at the end of the bridge on a chair of nails and blesses the devotees as they cross.  I love this event, because Kow Ong Yah wears his beautiful yellow robes and  his hat with the long pheasant feathers and it looks really awesome.  It’s a great time, because everyone gets to participate, unlike the fire-walking that is restricted to men only, and then only some men as well.

Here is what it will look like this afternoon with the vendors moved out from in front of the temple:

If we are blessed with a clear sky tonight, photographers should watch for the lovely combination colours and silhouettes.

Tonight everyone can cross the bridge, even those who haven’t kept a strict vegetarian diet.  Don’t be shy!  It brings luck if you cross.  The mediums go first and bless the way.

DAY 9 A day of inspecting the grounds, feeding the army, Firewalking, and the glorious send-off procession. Today is about “Yang”, about balance and about the mediums acting on behalf of the community.  The gods show up and the day is action packed and packed with visitors.  See my post from 2010 on Day 9 at Kow Ong Yah in Ampang.

Preparation of the fire pit starts early.

The mediums are in full swing all day!  Here is Kow Ong Yah proving his worth.  I love this photo for the guys in the background, as well as for the energy! 

If you come early, you can watch the preparation of the fire pit. The area is fenced to keep people back as it gives off a lot of heat in the early stages of burning.

Sorry, no female photographers allowed inside the fence.  And also it takes press credentials to get inside for the fiery close ups.

Never mind though.  If you are inside the fence, you don’t get to photograph all that goes on outside the fence ie – the feathers again!

As I once heard Joe McNally say – Don’t complain about lack of access.  Make it work.  Be grateful for being there and the opportunity to make images. Of course he said it with a story and much more poetically!  From outside the fence, I shot this, and many more, in 2010. 

The festival quiets down a bit after the firewalking and the crowds disperse.  But a lot still happens after that and into the wee hours of the morning.  The opera troupe comes to perform important rituals at the altar in front of the temple at about midnight.

If you are really keen (and you should be!) stay around for the procession to send the Emperor back to the heavens.  It leaves the temple at about 2am.  Despite the late hour, this procession is attended by thousands and is RELA’s last chance of the festival to boss us around!

Everyone is pretty tired at the end of the nine days but the send off is a joyous celebration of blessings received, as the Emperor heads off into the night to return to the heavens.

I hope to see you there to share in all of the excitement!  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 Yellow Curtain

I dreamt last night of yellow and streaks of light in the night sky and so am glad of a day of distraction from the temple to give my imagination a rest!  A couple of things happened yesterday to prompt my thoughts and give rise to this morning’s blog. Someone showed me some photos of the evening sky on October 3rd with clouds reflecting a brilliant light in the low sun.  I was told that the lines across the sky were the heavenly spirits coming to the festival.  Interesting.  It reminded me of the light last week when I was alone at the temple in the rain at sunset.  Here’s the photo I took then.  Now you know why I need a day off!

And then yesterday again, a young man in the temple asked me if I knew the story of the Festival.  I listened carefully as he told me the tale, according to his mother, of nine special humans (maybe brothers) who did good deeds and were so popular with the people that the jealous Emperor (of a long time ago) had them decapitated.  Their death so upset the people that they began worshiping the nine brothers as if they were Emperors.   When I asked him if he knew what was behind the yellow curtain he told me that he had no idea, but it must be the Emperor Gods.

I have asked a lot of visitors to the temple about the story behind the festival and there are so many variations – from blank stares, shrugs, and “We Pray to the God”, to more elaborate stories of headless heroes, magic musicians, sons of the Mother of Heaven, and of the stars in the sky.  It really doesn’t matter what people believe, just that they believe.  Their purpose in the temple is the pursuit of health, happiness and prosperity and it is personal and with good intentions.

Here is the myth that suits me best, probably because it is based on the geographical dissemination of popular culture.  It comes from research by Cheu Hock Tong at the National University in Singapore.  There is a link to the whole article in the sidebar, left.   According to Cheu, the Ampang mythology  ties in to the existence of a Hong Secret Society formed to overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming. Cheu writes “A Hong member by the name of Wan Yunlong was killed in battle…on the ninth day of the ninth month, 1783.  His followers fled to Thailand, where, rebuffed by the Thai authorities, they moved south to the Penang area.  Some Hong members settled in Ampang where they worked as planters and farmers and organized a clandestine movement to overthrow the Qing…”

I like this interpretation because it helps me understand the connections between the important Nine Emperor Gods Temples in Thailand and Penang and Ampang.  But here’s where it gets really good and ties back to the yellow curtain.  In Ampang, apparently, when the secret society was meeting (must have been in the 1860’s) the police arrived to investigate the gathering.  This is what Cheu writes, “The group replied that it was praying for peace and protection.  Seeing that there was only an incense urn and not image of any sort, the police said, ‘There is not deity here – what are you worshiping?’  One quick-witted soul pointed at the incense urn and replied ‘This is the god we worship!’…This accounts for the use of an incense urn to represent the Nine Emperor Gods during the festival.”   Now, that’s a good story!!

Sooooooo, that MIGHT explain what’s behind the curtain!  It’s all part of the secret and the wonderful aura of mystery that surrounds the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.  Worshipers pray in the direction of the curtain and give joss sticks to the guardians of the altar to place in the urn.  Worshipers never see the Emperor but they believe he is there.  Blind faith and it works for them.

Next blog – let’s think about more yellow at the festival.  Here’s a teaser.




Make plans for Saturday, October 9th and the next procession

Welcome to the Ninth Moon and the Nine Emperor Gods Festival!!  The vendors are set up, the street food is fresh and delicious, the opera troupe is in place and the scene at the temple is smoky, smoky, smoky.  Let’s have fun!

I apologize for the misinformation about the start of the Chinese Opera at the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Ampang.  I guess that’s why this is the “Almost Official” Guide.  I was told (and reconfirmed) that the opera started on Friday.  It was strange, but my gut was telling me that they would perform on Thursday evening, and they did.  Not to worry, it wasn’t a big special show and they will perform everyday from now until Day 9 (October 16th) at 2pm and 8pm.   October 8th (that’s today right now) at 10AM a few members of the opera troupe will ceremoniously pay their respects to the gods in the temple.  Should be colorful, if nothing else.

The festival has really picked up in the past day.  There should be big crowds there over the weekend, especially in the evening and again on Saturday, October 9th.  The procession leaves at 7pm from the temple.  They will walk out to Jalan Ampang and everyone will stop and take a break.  A truck carrying the mediums and trance masters and a few members of the committee will head off to the river to get the “Finance Minister”.  There is a fun party atmosphere while everyone waits and good photo ops for those always looking for such things.  Upon the return of the truck with the with the Minister, the procession of floats and lions and dragons will turn around and head back through the main street of Pekan Ampang to the temple.  It’s usually a smaller procession than the one to  receive the Emperor but it always creates a good atmosphere.

More later.  Hope to see you there.

Lim of the Lanterns

Mr Lim has been painting lanterns at the Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Ampang since he was 19 years old – more than 50 years!  He has seen a lot of changes and is proud to be part of the team that undertook the renovations and preparations for the 2010 festival.  Lim has been a busy man for the past couple of weeks.  He had extra lanterns to make for the processions this year, as well as helping with the big dragon heads on one of the temple floats. (Why don’t I have a photo of those??)

It takes Lim about 2 days to make a lantern – he starts with the wire frames and adds the canvas in a process that is similar to the way Chinese umbrellas are made.  The paint (probably toxic) is a high gloss, with a shellac that hardens on the canvas.  He then paints Taoist symbols – dragons, tigers and scenes from the “life of the Emperor” on the lanterns.  If you would like to commission a lantern, it will cost you a bit – RM1,000 – negotiable, I’m sure.  Otherwise you can have your name put on a lantern for RM50 and it will hang in the temple for a year.

Stop by and see Lim when you visit the temple. He is stationed behind the lantern altar, towards the dormitories, stage left of the main temple building.

The Emperor Has Been Received and No Opera Until Friday, Oct 8th

Taking the Gods for a Stroll!

Two very busy days and no time to post.  First thing to note is that there are no opera performances until Friday, Oct 8th.  Sorry about the misinformation.  The temple has substituted Hokkien Puppets at 2pm and 8pm on Tuesday (just finished) and Wednesday.  I was there today and the puppets had an audience and they were paying attention and laughing.  Charming troupe performing.  Try to catch it.

I expect that the festival will be very quiet until Friday.  That’s Ninth Month, First Day so it should gear up.  The buses will start arriving with the Singaporeans, and there is a procession on Saturday evening at 7pm to receive the Emperor’s Finance Minister.  When the word gets out about how beautiful the temple is and how the deities have been given a fresh sparkle, I expect that lots and lots of people will want to see it.  Think about how smokey it will be!

In the last couple of days, I have walked kilometers, chasing processions, camera on tripod.  I have a room in the dormitory at the temple so I’ve been sitting with my new roommates and listening to their stories, as well as taking some fun photos with them.  They are beginning to realize that I am around for awhile and that I probably won’t stop asking questions!  I have also met a lot of photographers at the festival.  It has been good getting reacquainted with people and also making some new photographer friends- even some who have read the blog!

I was wearing a white scarf yesterday, at my new roommates’ suggestion, and out of respect for the festival.  Also, the committee gave me an official T-shirt to help me along the procession route with the RELA guys.  So, apologies if I looked liked a crazy expat.  Don’t worry – I won’t be doing the trance/piercings at Thaipusam!

Lots of stories to tell and information to share.  Keep visiting!  More posts to come.  And if anyone is reading this, could you please let me know what the red looks like in the photos.  I desaturate it but looks bad on my monitor and I can’t tell what everyone else is seeing.  Thanks!

October 4th Procession – TODAY!

Just a quick press for those of you looking for information about tonight’s Nine Emperor Gods Festival procession.

A map to the temple is on tv smith’s mycen blog which is linked in the left column on this page. Get there VERY early.  The procession will be staged all along Jalan Merdeka, south from the temple so don’t even try to park in those lots in the area if you arrive after 5pm.
The procession will be huge! More than 50 floats with 16 dragons and lots and lots of lion dance troupes.  All of the gods from the Nine Emperor Gods Temple will be paraded through the streets with drumming and excited crowds and too many smokey joss sticks. The procession will depart the temple at 7pm. I expect that by 5pm the lions and dragons will begin paying their respects to the Emperor so there will be some good photo ops in daylight at that time. The procession will take hours and hours as it winds through Ampang Jaya. Check out the map on the Two Processions blog I did earlier if you want to know the route and chase it.  When the Emperor and the other deities return, they will be placed in their newly renovated altars. You can expect this to happen about 2AM.
Get ready for a long, raucous and very enjoyable evening!  If you plan to photograph, be sure to bring lots of memory cards and a couple of extra batteries.

Here are a few photos I grabbed quickly from last night’s shoot.  If you have photos from last night that you can get into an online gallery, let me know and I’ll post a link.

The Photographers' Favorite Dragon

Street Scene, Pekan Ampang, Nine Emperor Gods Procession, Oct 3rd

Why I Love This Festival!

Guarding the temple Guardians

Here’s a look at the new doors on the main sanctuary of the Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Ampang.  The Taoist flags have been arranged there to indicate that it isn’t yet time to open the doors.   That is for the Emperor to decide.   Hopefully, he stays with the plan and the doors will be ceremoniously opened on Monday (Oct4) night/early Tuesday (Oct5) morning when the Emperor and the other gods are returned to the temple.

Festival Starts October 3rd!

Late afternoon at the Nine Emperor Gods Temple today was a flurry of last minute preparations.  The “Masters” were there, a few devotees were arriving, and there were quite a number of curious onlookers.  The flagpole goes up tomorrow, October 3rd and the procession to receive the Emperor starts at 7pm from the temple.

The three chariots being readied for the procession

Each chariot is adorned with 10 windings of strong, white ribbon on both sides.  I was told that this pattern has a secret significance that was apparently not going to be shared with the curious crowd gathered around.  I expect that its significance is mired in myth and it is likely, as well, that it provides much needed extra support to the chariot during the procession.  In fact, the chariots go in to a real shake, rattle and roll when the Gods are placed in them – a real crowd pleaser.  (Photos of that to come later)

The protective and secretive X pattern

Over at the opera house, the yellow curtains have been hung so that the Emperor can be placed there for one night.

The new statue of Tua Pek Gong has now been empowered and boasts the tiny red dots that indicate that it has been “opened”/blessed by a ceremonial act of a Taoist priest.  This statue was made in China and flown to KL in its own seat on the airplane – you can’t put a god in the cargo hold!

Dusk fell quickly and the workers were still preparing the chariots as I left the grounds.  You can see the flagpole on the left, in the photo below, ready for tomorrow’s raising ceremony.

The quiet of the scene tonight is like the calm before the storm.  I’ll try to take a photo from in front of the gate tomorrow to show you the difference 24 hrs makes.