The Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Butterworth, just a ferry away from Penang. Having bought many friends, locals and foreigners and the exclamation is never surprising.
Most are spell bound like me, it is as if you are in a movie setting where the whole set up is a make believe! The neatness and cleanliness is unlike any temple in Penang. Marble floors are shiny and spotless.
Other then the Kew Ong Yah in Hokkien, and Kow Wong Yeh in Cantonese, the Nine Emperor Gods Temple is quiet throughout the year.
Every year, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is held for nine days of the Chinese 9th lunar month (Usually in early October).
This is when the spirit of the Gods, which are believed to dwell in the stars descend to earth and possess the spirit mediums, putting them on a trance. Legends has it that the Gods are the sons of Dao Mo.
In here, you will know about:
- What you get to see in Temple
- Front Prayer Hall
- Sacred Prayer Room
- Inner Courtyard
- Da Mao or Ma Zu Palace
- Details of this Taoist Festivals
- Where and how to reach the Temple
- Surrounding the Temple
The building architecture with the latest addition at the main entrance is simply stunning! The sculptures and carvings all along the temple were beautifully done up by 50 craftsman and artisan from China.
- The Raising of the "Teng" Tall lamp
- Invitation of the Five Generals and his contingents of armies
- The Welcoming of Nine Emperor God, float procession to Pantai Bersih
- Mediums in trance playing with hot oil
- Skewering with 9m spear
- Selection of next year's Lor Chu
- Fire walking ceremony
- Dao Mo Birthday, prayers at midnight
- Send Off and burning of the Emperor's Boat
Way back in 1971, you would not even give this Nine Emperor Gods temple a visit, as it was just an attap shed. It is what it is today due to the efforts of good administration, the Gods protection of their devotees from misfortunes.
Also back in the 70's, Jalan Raja Uda in Butterworth is considered a notorious place and businesses were slow.
Today after 36 years, it tells a different story. And one can see why this Nine Emperors Gods Temple is so beautiful.
Looking at this glorious opulently embellished temple, one can imagine the efforts put in by the locals. 7 million is not a small sum of money.
This is not the story for one very old temple in Penang. Cheng Kon Sze is more then 130 years old, situated high up in the Paya Terubong hills.
The peace, tranquility and serenity wins the day. Taoist devotees arm with a branch for strength hiked up this temple just to pray and have a blessed meal.
The present new Nine Emperor Gods Temple, or Rumah Berhala Tow Boo Kong Butterworth, was completed on 26 April 2000.
You get an opportunity to feast your eyes. You will find three grand prayer halls, an inner courtyard and a dragon spewing water fountain, an inner sacred altar sanctuary, stairs way for you to view the architecture of the roof.
Dou Mu, the mother in the Taoist Pantheon stood in the front prayer hall. The Nine Emperor Gods is seated just below the mother on the same level.
You would enjoy admiring this stunning piece of masterpiece. And the two door generals (Mui Sin) are crafted from a single trunk of a tree.
Don't miss looking at the intricate carving of the doors. The doors are heavily craved and gold leaves are pasted on it. Weapons like rings, spears or swords used by the Gods are placed on the table.
Food or fruits offered are typical manner for the business people. So it is no surprise, you will see bananas, pineapple, apples, oranges and pears are arranged in this manner.
In Hokkien, these fruits with powerful words are Cheow, Ong, Koe, Keat and Lai. It means in direct English translation, continuous or abundance calling of prosperity, wealth and health.
As you walked to the second level of the 9 Emperor Gods Temple, lies the Sacred Room the most respectful place in the temple .
This section is where the trusted one, the High Priest who is specially selected by the 9 Emperor Gods to communicate and guard their "URN".
This is also the urn during this Taoist festival, the Lor Chu takes to the sea to welcome them as they descended from the Stars. It is also the presiding Lor Chu privileged to "take the URN" home for a year before the festivals.
It is believed that taking care of the "URN or LOR" will bring luck and prosperity to this person. So it is no wonder, most devotees will try to be selected as the LOR CHU for the year. But the responsibility is massive.
The inner courtyard with a dragon spewing water from its mouth stood majestically. This stone carving is huge, massive and so alive. The eyes of this dragon looks alert to many visitors.
Every one who comes here tries to throw some coins and hope it lands in the mouth. It is a common sight in many Penang temples.
What I love to see is a huge paintwork of 100 children. Having 100 children signifies the continuity of generation. Feels they are having a jolly good time in the picture. A beautiful piece of art work.
Dou Muo, Tao Bo or Ma Zu sits in the deepest and most revered place of the temple. Like the Jade Emperor, she is surrounded by many gods and Goddesses.
Amongst them guiding the Dou Mu are the seven daughters, also sisters to the 9 Emperor Gods. Dou Mu is also the first woman on Earth, Eve as I was told recently. Dou Mu married a Chinese king.
Legend has it that Dou Mu is the Goddess of the North Star. Born in India. And the Nine emperor Gods are the seven stars of the Big Dipper. Two more stars can only be seen by immortals, I was told.
According to ancient Chinese myths, the Big Dipper was supposed to decide the fate of individuals. Same time the fate ofthe state. So the 9 Emperor Gods are believed to have control over people's fate.
I was quite surprised there was no celebration for the moon cake festival. But there were some activities going on. Temple managing members dressed in yellow were seen performing some kind of rituals.
We then enquired what were they doing as I was curious. For me the 9 Emperor Gods festival definitely have not started as it was the Chinese 15th day of the 8th lunar month.
I was wrong as I was then told by the presiding and managing trustee (Lor Chu) Girlie, for this year 9 Emperor God Festivals. The rituals and observation for the event started two weeks before the festival.
See how Kepala Batas celebrates its Nine Emperor Gods festivals.
We witnessed this year's Lor Chu Girlie and her two assistance praying for guidance to the 9 Emperor God and Vegetarian Festival. We feel very privileged to Girlie for her time and explanation of the nine days event.
And Chandra and I were fortunate to meet her as having gone there at least 8 times, the temple is always quiet, peaceful and serene. Having someone explained makes a world of difference.
Making sure for the 9 Emperor Gods Festival to run successfully comes under the Presiding Trustee and her working team. It comprise of a few working teams as for the next nine days, no lights, no urns must run out of joss sticks or oil lamps go dry.
Some of the major responsibilities entrusted upon the trustees (Lor Chu) include being involved in the rituals. And I can tell you, this is Penang Fear Factor in live performance!
Most Nine Emperor Gods Temples have some events though not the same. For this temple in Raja Uda Butterworth Taoist Temple, you need to make effort to observe. And it is truly one in the lifetime experience.
Be prepared to see a varieties of events. I promise you, it is worth your time and effort.
During the Nine Emperor Gods festival, many devotees will go on a vegetarian diet. You will see many vegetarian stalls with yellow flags being put up.
Special utensils and disposal plates and cutlery are used to ensure that nothing is contaminated that is non-vegetarian.
A yellow cloth in placed front of the stall. This is important for those strict vegetarians. The reason for these is not every members of the family would be strict Vegans.
Also these ceremonies and rituals entails you to be Vegetarian and by itself a self purification or cleansing ceremonies. I was told that as the spirit mediums performed these seemingly harmful acts in order to save people from their sins.
Coming from Ferry, it is located along Jalan Raja Uda. Or use the Jalan Raja Uda Butterworth Outer Ring road (BORR), the temple located on the right side of the road. You won't miss it as yellow flags will lead you to the Nine Emperors God temple.
Coming from the Penang Bridge, as you drive along the highway, look out on your left for a blue sign board saying Permatang Pauh. Drive for 10 to 15 mins and turn left to Jalan Raja Uda.
The Nine emperor Gods Temple is nearing the end of Jalan Raja Uda. You have to pass the famous Apollo morning Market. Pretty difficult as there are many traffic lights.
Coming from Juru, follow the route from Penang Bridge. Taking the public transport from alighting the ferry. Find the local bus 323, it stops right in front of the Nine Emperor Gods Temple.
On the right side of the Nine Emperor Gods Temple, there is a clinic. Free medicals services are provided by the Medical private Doctors. The latest addition is the entrance Arch.
There is a board for you to place your names in for whatever you want to contribute. The temple is massive, volunteers young and old or enthusiast are encouraged to register.
Also if you want to be selected to be in the administrative team during the Nine Emperors Gods festivals, you can. Just register and if you are selected, you will be notified by a phone call.