When the Nine Emperors Gods are invited to the temple, it is customary for devotees to offer tea and joss sticks in sets of nine out of respect and a sense of Chinese hospitality. Look at those nine little tea cups!
During the two processions through Ampang Baru, on the eve and on the second night of the festival, the lions, dragons, palanquins, tang-ki and temple officials, along with hundreds of white-clad devotees, create an air of expectation. On their way out of the temple, they quickly pass by the throngs of adoring spectators offering their blessings for a successful invitation at the river. On the way back, with the Emperor in hand, they are greeted with bigger, enthusiastic crowds and an air of jubilation. Along the route of the procession, businesses and families layout small altars with offerings to the Emperors and other Taoist gods who might be visiting. There is always a fire element – joss sticks, candles and burning paper and treats of fruit and drinks if the gods should happen to stop by. Within the excitement there is always a strong element of respect and prayer. This festival, I paid special attention to these small sacred spaces and the hopeful people who carefully tend to them. We had a lot of blessed rain this year and it served to make these altars and the collective community spirit really shine.