The excitement on the eve of the 9 Emperors Gods Festival can be seen as early as 7pm in any Taoist temple. It is not any different in the Tow Boo Kong Temple in Jalan Raja Uda in Butterworth.
Devotees in whites and yellow have started to fill the temple. Most came from home barefooted.
Taoist devotees joined by fascinated locals of all races lined the street to witness this celebrations. Adults in walking stick, kids barely walking and being carried by their mums.
Though this festival is celebrated world wide, the Asian are always a dare devils when it comes to performing certain feats.
Only during the 9 emperors gods festivals can one see such spectacular and unimaginable performances.
- The Float Procession
- The Organizing Team
- The LOR CHU
- Commencement of Nine Emperor Gods Festivals
- Dragon and Lion Dance Performance and significance
- Welcoming Procession Commences
- Invoking the Star Deities
Receiving and sending off the 9 Emperors Gods is an annual event for the Taoist devotees. It is as if the message they sent is if you are a Taoist, this is one pilgrimage you will not miss.
The 9 Emperors Gods festival, for me, is bigger then any festivals in Penang besides Thaipusam. So, it is no surprise for 9 Emperors Gods festivals, celebrated widely in Penang, Butterworth, Ampang in Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and ancient China.
Also this 9 Emperors Gods Taoist festival is celebrated through nine days of vegetarian diet.
The eve and ninth day of 9 Emperors Gods Festival are important days for the Gods. There will be street processions of welcoming and sending off the Gods.
Colorful floats for the Presiding Trustee, for the 100 pretty children and not forgetting the Ong Chun "Emperor Boat".
The Ong Chun or Emperor Boat will be burnt on the last days of the festival. Some other temples even shared their floats for the procession.
The Taoist community I must say, is very close in kinship. Devotees and committee members will visit each other temple to pay homage and exchange souvenirs.
For the locals, it is only a short distance to the seaside, approx 10 minutes by car or motorcycle. But for those walking and following the 5 km procession, it takes approximately 2 hours to arrive at the seaside.
Along the way, the procession stops for devotees or businessman to pay homage to the Gods.
From the outside, the festivals seems easy going as if there is no management team, except most devotees in white or yellow guiding and helping each other. But it is not the case.
This Taoist festivals occurs only once a year so plans to ensure all runs smoothly starts the year before. The seniors of the temple like the advisers and shareholders works behind the scene, managing and ensuring the smooth running of the temple.
The working team needed for the festivals are around two hundred devotees who has to go on vegetarian diet for twelve days to ensure to the smooth functioning of the festivals.
The Chairman and 30 able devotees will organized this yearly event. The presiding trustee "LOR CHU" is specially selected by the Gods themselves for the celebration.
The bestowing of the presiding trustee is done every year during the last few days of the festivals. He or she will be helped by two assisting LOR CHU.
Read more about the roles of Spirit Mediums as I share more on this absolutely spectacular event held on the third day of Butterworth Nine Emperor Gods Festival held in Tow Boo Kong Taoist Temple.
The Lor Chu or presiding trustee is the most important person for the 9 Emperors Gods Festivals. For every event of the festivals to start, they are the STAR of the hour. And their responsibility is magnanimous.
This responsibility runs for the whole year and the climax is on the 9 Emperors Gods festivals.
Once you are selected, the scared URN will be given to your care for the whole year. There will be a ceremony preformed for the URN to be sent to the house. Certain rites and rituals for prayers are advised to them.
Then every 30th and 14th night of the lunar calendar, the prayers both at home and in the temple must be performed.
Having done all this successfully, the final days and responsibilities of the LOR CHU is even greater. EVERY RITEs OR RITUALs NEEDS THE LOR CHU's PRESENCE.
If you look up on the West General post, high up together with the Tall Lamp, you will see a while flag. This gift from the gods is the protective flag. It will be given to the Presiding Lor Chu at the end of the festivals.
This flag I was told will ward off and protect them for this lifetime. That makes me think of whether I would like that. It takes more then guts and determination to want to be a Lor Chu.
As I followed Girlie in her daily rituals as she does a recap every time we have an opportunity to meet. It is not an easy task, let me tell you that. I am impressed and amazed at her obedience and belief.
The Taoist Purification Rituals can be daunting and unreal but permit me to share some insiders knowledge.
The Chinese cultures bought to us by our forefathers are very much intact in us Malaysian and locals of Penang and Butterworth. Most cultures are actively participated and alive in this part of the world. We feel blessed by the Gods we worshiped.
Inauguration of the Five Generals
On the last day of the eight lunar month, a consecration ceremony is performed to purify the temple and the surrounding grounds.
Then an inauguration ceremony for the five generals and armies of spirit soldiers of heaven and earth, fire and water, earth, metal and wood are performed.
Usually this is done in the afternoon on the eve of the Festivals. I was told that each General has with him 30,000 to 90,000 spirit soldiers guarding the temple and the 9 Emperors Gods while they are on EARTH.
In most Taoist temples, you will see the bamboo poles stations in four corners of the temple. You will see the bamboo poles tied in 5 colors white, yellow, black, red and green. This is where the Presiding Trustee roles commences.
After welcoming the five Generals to the designated post, she or he will pray for their guidance and protections. The Presiding Trustee, her assistance and 36 managers of different roles will participate in prayers daily until the end of the celebration.
Lighting the Ko Teng or Tall Lamp
Then, the Presiding Trustee have to light the tall Lamp or Ko Teng and it will be lifted high up in the sky to inform the Gods about the commencement of the Festivals. Here one can understand the roles of these 200 over devotees.
The Tall Lamp MUST stay lighted for the Nine Days of the festivals. All candles and joss sticks for the five generals must stay lighted.
The 9 Emperors Gods celebration starts with invitation of God and deities from other temples to join in the event.
Invited Gods and deities will have special seating in the temple ground to witness the on going festivals. At the same time, Chinese Operas are staged to the delights and amusement of the Gods and devotees.
This Chinese Opera now is itself very interesting. It is one of the dying art performances in the modern society. Well since Gods are from the ancient world, Chinese Opera still have a purpose.
In the early evenings, after dressing and making up, the actors and actresses will first offer prayers before the commencement of the Opera. You will see them dressed up in mythical themes like "The Eight Immortals" or "the Three Kingdoms".
The third, sixth and ninth days are days where special feast for the Gods and spirit soldiers. And for devotees and locals had their great share of good vegetarian food served every day for nine days.
Watch the Kepala Batas Nine Emperors Gods devotees sharing and preparing food for the devotees and outstation guests from surrounding temple.
Lowering the Ko Teng or Tall Lamp and recalling of the five Generals and their spirit soldiers on the tenth day marked the end of the 9 Emperors Gods festivals.
I was quite amused when I was told immediately on the ninth night as the procession leaves the temple, the devotees has start breaking fast and eat MEAT!
Here we are just at the start of the procession and in the temple, they have started to eat meat.
Anyway, in the morning again, the start the vegetarian fast to lower the Tall Lamp and recalling of the Generals and spirit soldiers.
As it was about to get dark, the temple was now crowded. Gongs and cymbals started to sound loudly. I virtually ran to see what was all the fuss about. Dragons and Lion dances were underway.
Three sets of Lion and Dragon Troupes took turns zig zagging their way around the temple to the thrills and shrills of the crowds. Praying and greetings to the deities and Gods as they went along.
By now, prayers, joss sticks were burning heavily. The crowd by now has turned massive and there was no space to walk.
The lion dance, for instance, is thought to recreate the breathing rhythm of a lion and thereby coordinate the interaction of yin and yang influences.
The lion's exhalation is believed to repel yin forces, and its inhalation to draw in yang forces from the surrounding area. In this way, the lion attracts yang and repels yin, thereby insuring the harmony of the environment.
I saw two disciples carrying two eight trigram flags, an silk umbrella like enclosure with many working team members guiding their way through the crowd of devotees.
If you are more into inner peace, tranquility and serenity, one temple in Penang celebrating the Nine Emperor Gods festival is the Cheng Kon Sze Taoist Temple.
This 9 emperors gods temple is unexplored, old and real. If you are looking for a place to meditate, this is THE temple!
Everyone bowed and prayed as the Presiding Trustee(I was told later) in the umbrella like enclosure walked to the float carrying the URN designated for them. Spirit mediums carrying whips lead the procession.
Whipping the roads is done in a certain trance dance to purify the environment. And rituals that are performed in the streets and in the vicinity of the temple are believed to purify the environment for the general well-being of the entire community.
Leading the Presiding Trustee (Lor Chu or LUZHU) floats, are floats for the organizing teams, the taoist priest and the managers.
Further in the front of the procession are the traditional musical choir, some of whom clang gongs, clash cymbals and flute. Some spirit mediums carried deities along the 5km route.
It is no easy task as the floats need to pass some street with high wires. Strong abled men were seen using bamboo poles lifting the wires higher so that the procession could passed easily.
Huge groups of families, male and female devotees and disciples led the procession. The procession left the Raja Uda temple passed through the streets of local resident and business people and stopped at Pantai Bersih beach side.
Again the Presiding Trustee is guided down from the float to the seaside where the worship table is prepared for the Urn and prayers invoking the 9 Emperors Gods.
From here on, three temple seniors, not the Lor Chu stands in the middle of the shallow waters and recites a prayer and incantations, beseeching the star deities to descend.
When the Taoist medium gives the signal at the time of the deities' arrival, the temple senior's gently submerges the incense urn to its rim and slightly tilts its mouth to scoop up a drop of water.
The drop that rolls into the urn is believed to symbolize the spirit of the gods.
He reverently covers the urn with a yellow pennant, ceremoniously lifts it out of the water with both hands, and gently places it in the star deities' urn.
This is followed by the boom of the great drum and the sound of gongs and cymbals as the palanquin is lifted from the ground. The return procession heads slowly and triumphantly towards the temple following the same route it came by.
The barefoot flag-bearers marching with high-raised steps, portraying an air of pomp and grandeur. On arriving at the temple the flag-bearers usher the star deities into the Inner Sanctuary palace.
No one are allowed to enter except the Temple senior, the presiding trustee and Chairman of the 9 Emperors Gods Temple. It is believed that the Spirit of the Divine nine reside here until the end of the festivals.