19 October 2007

Festival Of The Nine Emperor Gods

Today is the 9th day of the 9th lunar month (九月初九). It is the day on which the Nine Emperor Gods Festival culminates. Nine Emperor Gods is 九皇爷 (Jiu Huang Ye in Mandarin, Kew Ong Yeah in Hokkien or Kow Wong Yeh in Cantonese).

The following passage is extracted from this website:

"This Chinese festival lasts for nine days. Following the Chinese lunar calendar, it is usually held during September and/or October. Activities centre around the Nine Emperor Gods Temple at Upper Serangoon Road, near Little India! You will find the temple near Yio Chu Kang Road.

This is a noisy celebration, as Chinese worshippers welcome the visitation of the Nine Emperor Gods who bring good fortune, longevity and health to the sound of drums and cymbals. Priests write out protective charms with their blood, and the festival climaxes with a parade of the nine gods, each carried in a large and elaborate sedan chair."
Next to Eunos MRT station and at a temple near my place, this festival is being celebrated. I took the following photos last weekend:

A traditional Wayang stage and show

Nearby tentage housing paraphernalia for prayers - notice the 9 flags, each representing an Emperor God

"Up-sized" joss sticks

The Chinese temple near my place

Lantern in the shape of a dragon, a mythical and traditional creature commonly used to adorn Chinese temples

Dragon head, close-up

A not-so-traditional decorative lantern

Hmm... could it have been inspired by or rather, mutated from the above icons?

9 lanterns, each representing an Emperor God

Lantern representing the First Emperor God

Procession vehicle

Procession vehicle transporting temple volunteers

Sedan of one of the Emperor Gods

Another sedan up on a vehicle

Essential transport as arrival and departure of the Emperor Gods are believed to be via waterways

The band (note that the $10 and $50 bills at the top of the photo are real money, possibly donations from temple devotees)

Joss paper scattered on the ground after the procession

This festival is currently still commonly observed by many Chinese temples in Singapore. However, it is anybody's guess how long this tradition is going to last. As a Business Times article dated 24 August 2007 about Mr Jimmy Lam, a Singaporean photographer puts it:

"Today, with local wayang and festivals like the Nine Emperor Gods becoming a rare sight on the streets of Singapore, Lam has made it his mission to photograph the indigenous culture of Asia before it vanishes in the march of modernity here.

'I've been documenting Asia for the last 12 years, because I've been through it myself - growing up amidst a place full of culture and then finding it swept away by modernity, inevitably,' he explains."
You can read more about this festival from the following links:

1. Wikipedia;

2. Becky Whitlock of Bath, UK witnessed the festival celebrations at the Upper Serangoon Road temple on 4 October 2003 and wrote a very animated account of the festival celebrations complete with photographs.

1 comment:

smithveg-backpack said...

The ship and dragon look nice.