Earlier this week, I visited this lovely Nine Emperor Gods temple in Klang. It’s been around for 60 years and, by the looks of it, it’s got a long life ahead of it. With strong Buddhist influences, this temple is all about the sacred smoke, even taking a palanquin on procession that holds the smoking urn. I also loved the responsibilities that this temple entrusts to the children; and they make their own pau for praying right in the temple! It exudes enthusiasm and camaraderie. It’s neat and tidy, beautifully finished and full of welcoming friends. Here are a few shots from my evening there. Thanks to LG Ong, the temple’s head medium, who took a lot of time to introduce us to the many endearing aspects of this temple.
This has to be the most mysterious Nine Emperor Gods temple that I have visited. It sits up on the hill called Bukit Mewah (Luxurious Hill) in Kajang, in a huge, modern complex that exudes prosperity. It is a beautiful temple. The shadows were dark, the lights glistened. The space was very empty, yet the Emperor’s presence could be felt. Yin and Yang were in a highly charged co-existence. I could tell that something goes on there, but there was hardly anyone around when I went last night. That’s strange for this time of year. I’d like to know more. For sure this is the most opulent personal offering to the Nine Emperors that I have ever seen – a place for private prayer to the celestial gods. Impressive.
The movie playing on the large screen (in lieu of opera) was a violent, Chinese gangster film with huge speakers blasting the groans and screams of the defeated into the still night air. That just added to the ambience. And of course the Datuk is there, as he would be on a hill with such opulence. Below the temple is a shrine to Datuk Sultan, also big and well-groomed. Inside, they are using a Datuk statue to ask for payment for prayer items. I’ve never seen a Datuk used this way. I almost put RM10 into the slot to steal him away, but my common sense prevailed.
I visited this temple in Kajang on the quiet 4th day of the festival. Got lucky and ran into a blogger friend, Sam, who made sure that I ate good vegetarian food and met the committee.
The temple is 75 years old, got the ashes from the Ampang temple and continues a long tradition of worshipping the Emperor gods with community spirit and a respectful amount of “secrecy”. A few shots from my visit. I’m a bit sad that I didn’t take any photos of the committee. On my next visit! Day 6 is a big one in Kajang.
In all it’s wonderful sameness, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is back again! I’m celebrating the energy with a few shots from last year.
Note the schedule on the sidebar on the front page of the blog for dates and times if you are interested in joining the festivities. http://cheryljhoffmann.com/category/9emperor/
Sean has a new blog where he is posting some images in countdown mode and answering some questions that you might have about what happens at the festival. https://photoculturetravelogue.blogspot.my/search/label/9emperorgods+9emperorgodsfestivalcountdown
The energy of the moment, when the Emperor is carried back to the temple, is electrifying. The teeming crowd shouts “HUAT AH!” and fireworks fill the sky. And then, this – the quiet, humble respect of a Sifu charged with the responsibility to carry the hopes of the believers through the streets of Ampang. The serious work of balancing the universe has begun again.
In a few days, a new moon will awaken the energies of all that is past and all that is future. Soon we will arrive at the great Ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, a time to expend effort to revel in the continuum, to center, to look to traditions to carry us into the unknown. Welcome to the Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2015.
Of the many themes that can be explored at the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, it is the mediums who demand much of our attention. And so it is with my images of the last two days. For now, I must be happy to show you one story. These are images of Sifu “Ah Boon” whose small frame is transformed into a vehicle for the Emperor God.
Over the years, I have taken many photos of these rituals and of Ah Boon especially. His image has adorned many of my posts. The images here were captured in less than 24 hours – the work of the man/deity as he walked amongst the believers.
Ah Boon is responsible for organizing the other mediums in preparation for the processions. He helps everyone else before entering a state of trance himself.
He accompanies the palanquins from the temple along the procession route and out to the river.
In order to invite the gods from the heavens, the Sifu enters the river in the dark of night, as devotees kneel in reverence.
Upon returning to the temple, the Sifu helps the other mediums out of trance, including removing their piercings. Here Ah Boon is spraying water on the rod as it is removed from the cheek of the medium. I must say, this is a “wow” moment.
On several days during the festival, the Sifu channels the Emperor God and inspects the temple grounds, showing off his strength of spirit to the admiring devotees who have gathered for the Feeding of the Armies ceremony.
He visits the dormitories,
…the opera house
…and the kitchens too, all the time brandishing his sword as a blessing.
If you come to the festival on the 8th night (see schedule in sidebar) the Sifu will be sitting in full regalia at the end of the bridge. Some day, I will put all of my photos of this man together!
“Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it.” – Isaiah 45:8
And rain it did! Even the offerings wore raincoats!
As the light danced on the water, we paused in awe.
The ceremonies continued with prayers of Thanksgiving and Gratefulness. These two devotees are personally responsible for taking care of the Emperor this year. They will stay at the temple for the whole time of the festival, keeping their devotion strong. You can see their feet (only) under the Emperor’s umbrella during the processions.
The ritual prayers are accompanied by traditional Chinese music, of course!
And at 8:30pm, the Chinese opera got going, once again, in a flurry of colour and sounds. I do believe that they put the stripes on their theatrical weapons just for the photographers!
And when I saw the colour in the big, big puddle I was once again thankful for the beauty of the rain!
Credit to Winnie the Pooh for the title of this post.