Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Deepavali 2011

Happy Deepavali - one of the many fireworks that were going off around the area.

A Happy and Joyous Deepavali to all my readers. When I got back home late last night, fireworks were going off left, right and centre throughout the area. Obviously everyone was really in the festive mood as it is Deepavali today. The fireworks went on intermittently till past midnight and it left a lingering smoky veil in the air.

In the past two weeks, many shopping malls were already decked with decorations associated with Deepavali. I was at Sunway Pyramid last weekend, looking for some computer and audio stuff. Since parking at the mall side has always been a frustrating experience, I opted to park at the Sunway Resort Hotel car park (charges are all the same). You have to go through the hotel lobby to get to the shopping mall, and passing through the lobby, I noticed that the hotel had a beautiful Kolam on display (but not in the traditional sense).
A beautiful Kolam depicting two peacocks. Hmm, did they realise that they've depicted two peacocks in union?!!

Even Sunway Pyramid Mall had a Deepavali themed deco, with voluptuous Indian styled statues (would have been very desirable, had the designer not wielded his artistic license and mutilated her arms). I was half expecting the statues to suddenly come alive and start gyrating its hips and then jumping behind the pillars like in a Bollywood movie. The statues were placed standing in the middle of a Kolam made with flowers. Visitors to the mall were having a field day taking photos, and here are a few shots that I've taken.
I'm sexy and I know it!
Flower...flower...Chrysanthemums lah!
More flowers to usher in the Festival of Lights.
Another voluptuous figure surrounded by exquisite blooms of all sorts. The lotus buds were already wilted, probably due to the air-conditioning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tranquility at the other shore - the Guan Yin Temple beside KLCC at Jalan Ampang

Since the last post has been about a temple (Nan Tian Gong) at one end of Jalan Ampang, and today is one of the three celebration days for Guan Yin (Avalokitesvara / Guan Shi Yin / Guanyin Pusa [觀音菩薩 / 观音菩萨] / Gwan-eum [관음] / Quan Âm / Kannon / Kwan Im), I have decided to post about another temple on the other end of Jalan Ampang, i.e. the KLCC end of Jalan Ampang. Guan Yin is a popular deity, that is the reason why she/he has name variants in so many languages (my post on one of the temples dedicated to her in Penang). 

The Temple - Stepping on the Other Shore
A little temple at the KLCC end of Jalan Ampang that usually goes unnoticed by many people who come to this part of town. This temple is better known as Kun Yam Thong (literally Guan Yin's Hall) in Cantonese, but the name on the signboard says Deng Bi An (登彼岸) which means stepping to the other shore. True enough, stepping into the temple grounds makes you feel like you have been transported away from the hustle and bustle of KLCC and the city roads into a tranquil garden of peace and serenity; unless you happen to go on the first or the fifteen of the lunar month or any of the deities celebrations days - where the atmosphere is more festive.
The Thousand Arm Thousand Eye Avalokitesvara at the temple. In front of the large image is the Zhunti Bodhisattva (also Zhunti Guan Yin Bodhisattva when considered as an emanation of Avalokitesvara). Guan Yin appears to be wearing a green jade-like necklace. This is actually a representation of the attainment of perfection of Wisdom (prajna/panna paramitta).

The upper signboard on the arch reads (法界觀音聖寺 / 法界观音圣寺), and when loosely translated means Dharma Realm Guan Yin Supreme Being Monastry/Temple i.e. the temple/monastry of the Supreme Being Guan Yin in the Dharma Realm - in other words, the noble Guan Yin's place. This place is more well known over the internet as Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery (if you ask me, the word sagely is a horrible, out of context translation).
The entrance to the temple. Note the tall buildings that flank the temple.

How to get there?
It is located just beside Menara Atlan (formerly Menara Naluri) / the Zon on the Jalan Ampang side (you can walk through the Zon to Menara Atlan from the KLCC Park side). Restorant Chef Choi flanks the temple's other side and somewhat opposite the temple is Corus Hotel. If you exit from Isetan in Suria KLCC at the ground floor (the Menara Maxis side exit), walk towards Jalan Ampang. At the junction (facing Jalan Ampang), just turn right (heading in the direction of the Jalan Tun Razak intersection) and walk down the road past Wisma Central and continue past Pelita Nasi Kandar and Restaurant Chef Choi. You will catch sight of the temple (or at least the temple's perimeter) once you pass by Pelita Nasi Kandar.

A Brief Historical Account of the Temple 
The premise was previously a syncretic Chinese temple (i.e. a mixture of folk Taoism and Chinese Buddhism) and is supposedly to have been founded in 1880. The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (a group founded by the late Venerable Master Hsuan Hua in 1959) moved into the temple in 1993, making it one of their branch centres.

The current building that was the result of rebuilding works that was carried out from 2000 to 2005, and the temple was officially 'reopened' on the 9th of March 2006 with the Opening Light Ceremony (read about the temple from a website of the late Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's life and legacy and also from the DRBA newsletter on A Brief Report on the Renovation of Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery and A Report on the Delegation to Asia).

So there's nothing left of the old temple?
Well, not quite, apparently. Despite the rebuilding of the entire temple, it is based on the old structure. Plus the main deity of the old temple, which is Cundi Bodhisattva (Zhunti Pusa 準提菩薩/准提菩萨) is still venerated on the Guan Yin altar (in front of the Thousand Armed Guan Yin). She is, like Guan Yin, known with many different names, but her iconographic representation is unmistakably specific. Also, the two Dharma guardians that stands flanking the Buddha's altar used to stand beside Cundi Bodhisattva (Zhunti Pusa).

Wait, we were talking about Guan Yin, now who is Cundi?
As Guan Yin's manifestation, Cundi represents her bala viriya - positive strength and energy that goes all out to help others. However, Cundi also existed as a deity on her own before records of her being the manisfestation of Guan Yin appeared. Sometime venerated as Fo Mu Zhunti Pusa (佛母准提菩萨 / Zhunti the Mother of the Buddha), she can be found standing in many syncretic temples. Her representation bears an uncanny resemblance to a Daoist deity, Dou Mu (斗母) the Mother Creator. Dou Mu's position parallels the Indian accounts of the Chandi, a manisfestation of Durga/Shakti (the ultimate female deity). Chandi is of course a 'fierce' deity, in the same league as Kali.

An interesting fact is that the full mantra for the Chinese Zhunti has similarities with the Hindu mantra for Chandi; namely it contains what appears to be syllabic equivalents to the Indian version of Aim, Hreem and in some esoteric recitation, the Kleem being placed at the end of the mantra proper. Furthermore, Durga rules the world with her power of Maya, i.e. illusion. It so happens that the Buddha's mother is also called Lady Maya. And in Mahayana and Tantra schools, she is the mother of seven billion Buddhas - Sapta koti Buddha maitri Cunda devi. Hmm, confused?? Well just let it be...

Her Chinese iconographic representation appears peaceful, but do not let her smiling face trick you. Chinese (unlike Indian craftsman) do not overtly represent fierce female deities (well, they do, but only for those that are esoteric in Nature) with tongue hanging out and knives that are dripping with blood. The only identifying feature that Zhunti is a 'fierce' female deity is her hair - dishevelled hair. Peaceful forms of deities have tied up or hair that is kept hidden by a shawl. If you see dishevelled hair in female Chinese deities - think of female power in the likes of Kali.
Zhunti Pusa in front of the Thousand Armed Guan Yin. Zhunti has eighteen arms and her 'weapons' are different in arrangement from the standard Guan Yin. Notice that Zhunti has dishevelled hair coursing down her shoulders.

The Temple Layout
If the discussion about Guan Yin and Zhunti sets your head spinning in circles, it is then time to go round (or rounds - you can circle the temple in as many rounds as you like) and take a look at the temple. Immediately passing through the gates, you come face to face with the Chinese representation of Maitreya Buddha, pot bellied and laughing joyously sitting in the central entrance of the temple (this is the first altar that you come across). Here you can give a small donation and get three joss sticks to light up and offer to the deities. There is minimal use of joss sicks here, unlike in syncretic temples where more smoke equals better. On both sides of Maitreya is the Four Heavenly / Directional Kings (Cāturmahārājika / 四大天王) who are the guadians of the four directions of the Earth.
As it was a festival day, the altar in front of Maitreya is filled with candles and fruits and underneath the altar table, bags of rice. The offerings are brought in for Guan Yin, but as the altar on the inside has limited space for candles (safety reasons) and foodstuff, they are placed here in front of Maitreya.
Two of the Four Heavenly Kings - Dhṛtarāṣṭra (East - pipa) and Virūḍhaka (South - sword).
Walking past the four heavenly kings, and directly behind Maitreya is Wei Tuo Bodhisattva, the guardian of the Dharma objects in a temple. Also known as Viharapala (guardian of the vihara - temple) or Sri Skanda, his image in a Buddhist temple always faces inwards; for he is said to get angry easily when confronted with the wrongdoings of worldlings and to prevent him from raising his weapon and striking someone, legend has it that the Buddha asked him to only look inside the vihara. I think this temple has a large number of Viharapala statues for a temple its size (three altogether), so much so that I sometimes tell my friends its the Viharapala Temple of KLCC. Perhaps the temple does require that many eyes to keep watch over it as it is located in a materialistic, hedonistic and indulgent area of town.
Peeking through Dhṛtarāṣṭra's guard.
A grand and handsome looking Viharapala keeping watch on the temple. He faces the Thousand Armed Thousand Eyed Guan Yin altar.

Facing the first Viharapala (and the largest) is the next altar (the central altar) dedicated to the Thousand Armed Thousand Eyed Guan Yin (Sahasra-bhuja Sahasra-netra Aryaavalokitesvara Bodhisattva) and Zhunti Pusa. There are a few cushions here where you can kneel down and say your prayers. Behind the Thousand Armed Guan Yin, stands another, well, Viharapala, this time looking at the three Buddhas in the main hall.

On the back of the halo and arms of the Guan Yin, are inscribed with three mantras. The first one in the middle is Om Ah Hum!. The next one on the lower section (behind Viharapala) is the famous six syllable mantra Om Mani Padme Hum! The third mantra (actually a dharani) covers the rest of the available space - the Great Compassion Mantra (大悲咒).
Viharapala (again) standing guard behind Guan Yin. The mantra Om Ah Hum! and Om Mani Padme Hum! can be seen together with the Great Compassion Mantra on the back of Guan Yin's halo and 'hands'.

Beyond the Guan Yin altar is a larger space that serves as the prayer hall. This main altar (the third and innermost) which houses the three Buddhas has a pair of guardian bodhisattvas - Qie Lan (Sangharama which is the Chinese deity Guan Di) and Wei Tuo (Viharapala - associated with Muruga/Skanda, an Indian deity). This pair of guardian deities are supposedly already in existence from the time of the original temple and used to stand guard for Cundi Bodhisattva.

Each of the Buddha on the main altar weighs a tonne. So that is three tonnes of Buddhahood for you (maybe that is why the temple needs three Viharapalas to stand guard - the burden is just too heavy to be born by a single guardian deity). Mounted high on the walls of the main hall by the side of Guan Yin altar are the 18 Arahants (nine on each side), the statues gilded with gold.
The view from the main prayer hall looking out onto Guan Yin's back. Up on the far right wall is the gold gilded statues of nine of the the 18 Arahants of Mahayana Buddhism. The other nine Arahants are on the left wall. Rows of cushions are placed for the Dharma assembly so that they can kneel in comfort.
He ain't heavy, he is the Buddha - The three Buddhas at the main altar (from left to right): Amitabha Buddha, Sakyamuni (Gotama) Buddha and Baishajya Guru Buddha. In the foreground you can see Viharapala (Sri Skanda) Bodhisatva as one of the Dharma Guardians. The Buddha each weighs a tonne!!

If you stand looking out of the temple, there is a small room on your left that houses a statue of the late Ven. Hsuan Hua, founder of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association. His statue has a life-like uncanniness and can be a bit unnerving to look at, as if the late Ven. Hsuan Hua is alive and sitting there with gold painted skin and would suddenly lean forward and whisper something in your ear like one of those people that pretend to be statues. If he ever does that, I would be the first to run out from the temple screaming!
Statue of the late Ven Master Hsuan Hua.

Besides the main hallway, the temple has two side halls (on both sides of the temple). Looking on into the temple, the hall on the right side of the building is dedicated to Baishajya Guru Buddha (the Medicine Guru Buddha) whilst the one on the left is dedicated to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (Earth Store Bodhisattva). On the altar of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattvas, there are also some ancestral tablets and tablets of deities.
The Medicine Guru Buddha.
The Earth Store (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva.

Vegetarian Food
The temple has a very popular vegetarian food canteen at the rear portion of the compound that is open during lunch time. A large number of their clientele are executives and big bosses from the surrounding offices. The canteen also provides free vegetarian food on the first and the fifteen of the lunar calendar. They focus on serving healthy natural vegetarian food and do not use MSG.

From the inside of the temple archway, one can see tall buildings and the bust road outside. Incribed on the archway - Bodhi. Perhaps the peace and tranquility is a representation of enlightenment, a small moment of bliss in this chaotic world.

All in all, this temple is the antipodal of what this part of town represents; peace versus the hectic bustling lifestyle, calm verses the honks of cars and buses, healthy vegetarian food versus MSG laden processed food. It certainly lived up to its name, Stepping on the Other Shore.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking Down the Lantern Pole Part 2 - The day after The Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2011(九皇大帝) at Ampang (Day 10 - Part 2)

This is the second part of the taking down the lantern pole ceremony that takes place the day after the end of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival at Ampang Nan Tian Gong Temple in 2011. If you came directly to this post, do look back at the first part [Taking Down the Lantern Pole Part 1] to get a complete sense of the whole ceremony. So here's Part 2 (the actual lowering of the lantern pole):

The priest, who was garbed in his black robes, and the medium, who was ready for a trance session appeared from the temple and headed to the Five Directional General's altar. Accompanied by the clanging of cymbals and the usual musical instruments, the medium enters into a trance and proceeded to the lantern pole. With instructions from the medium, and after an offering of joss sticks and candles, the horizontal bamboo pole was untied and lowered.
The priest and the medium getting ready for the trance session to lower the lantern pole.
Lighting of joss sticks and lowering the horizontal bamboo pole. The medium oversees the entire process.
Slowly...slowly...the lantern being lowered.
And...touchdown. The lantern (oil lamps) were set aside and then...

As the bamboo branch was lowered and came to rest by the fencing surrounding the lantern pole, a strange scene unfolded. Suddenly, the locals whom had earlier gathered around rushed forth to the bamboo branch and began stripping and pulling the dried leaves and smaller branches off the bamboo branch.
The leaves of that bamboo branch was stripped and taken away by the folks waiting around. I am very sure it was just dried leaves and not gold.
Yippee! I got a big bunch...
His toothless grin tells it all. Notice the bamboo has been stripped bare of its leaves. The crowd of uncles and aunties are more 'vicious' than hawks or eagles or vultures. Perhaps they can be called 'leaf vultures'.

Many tried to collect as much leaves or small twigs as possible, as if the leaves were made of gold! Those who managed to get a substantial amount were grinning from ear to ear. They believe that the leaves confer some kind of protection and blessing to the bearer, hence the rush to obtain some for their family members and themselves. They must have thought that this guy with the camera must be pretty daft, for he did not attempt to take any despite being in a strategic position to get some good bunches of leaves, but instead just laughed and kept on taking photos. In a short while, the bamboo branch was stripped bare, like a carcass stripped clean of flesh by a flock of vultures!
The lantern (oil lamps) that was taken down. Many of the folks around were looking at it with that strange look, as if desiring something from it. I thought it was the wick or the light from the lamp that they wanted, but I was wrong.

After some rice and salt throwing and prayers, one of the temple staff got onto the crane basket and wnet up to attach the pole to the crane. Once that was done, blocks of wood at the base of the pole that was used to wedge the pole steady was knocked out. When the green light was given by the medium in trance, one of them flashed a thumbs up sign to the crane operator and the pole was lifted off the hole and then placed onto stands that were already in place in the temple compound.
Up, up and away.
Here, let the phoenix give you a push.
The wooden blocks (green arrows) were knocked off the base of the pole. Only one block of wood is left in place (blue arrow).
Work in progress under divine watchful eyes. There were some tense moments as some of the guide ropes were caught on the zinc roofing or the pagoda.

As the pole was laid onto the metal stands that were spaced out on the courtyard of the temple, the people who had earlier gathered the dried leaves were at it again. This time, there were two different kinds of leaves that they were collecting. One is from a bamboo pole and another from a tree that I suspect was one of the local fig trees. The temple staff had to reserve the part of the bamboo pole from the highest point which carried a yellow flag emblazoned with 天官賜福/天官赐福 (meaning heavenly officer who confers blessing) so that the temple workers and volunteers can take home some blessed leaves. They even had to station one guy to guard that to prevent it from being 'pilfered' by the devotees! After that, some of them very busy collecting oil from the Nine Emperor lamps. So it was the oil that they wanted when they were eyeing the lamps earlier on! I overheard one lady saying that she rubbed the oil on her head to get a luscious crown of hair. Hmm, perhaps I can market it as libido enhancing oil...Wait, that wouldn't work as devout devotees remain celibate for the entire nine days...Damn. Jokes aside, the ceremony isn't yet over, as the medium in trance was busy going around the temple.
The pole laid onto metal stands strategically spaced out. Notice the 'leaf vultures' had begun attacking the leaves of this pole.
The top most section of the pole had bamboo leaves that were reserved for the temple staff and volunteers. They had to post a man to stand guard to prevent the leaves from being carted off by the rest.
The uncles and aunties aka 'leaf vultures' filling their bags full with the leaves from the main pole.
Workers untying the ropes that were used to secure the pole to the crane.
They wanted the oil from the lamps. There is another similar lamp in the background, but I have no idea where was that lamp located or whether the two lamps were used in rotation.

The medium went around collecting back the five coloured flags representing the soldiers of the five directional generals that were station on guard throughout the festival. You can see in the picture below that the white, black, green and yellow flag were placed onto the buckets of food in front of the temple. After all, the pole lowering ceremony is to recall the heavenly soldiers from their stations and send them off after the festival. The red flag (South Camp) was missing, and apparently someone must have liked Er Lang deity's army so much that the person must have taken them back home! At the end of the ceremony, the pile of joss paper was ignited and the joss sticks lit at the lantern pole were thrown in the pile to be burned away. The food was then a free for all buffet for the folks whom had been busy collecting leaves. One person actually carted an entire bucket off to a corner so that he could pick the best parts before returning it to the bench. At this point I was really hungry and if I had some form of food container plus fork and spoon, I wouldn't mind helping myself to some lunch courtesy of the temple. Then again there is no rest food for crazed.
Calling back all the heavenly soldiers who were on guard around the temple during the festival. Notice that the red flag is missing and the spirit medium just came back with the central camp yellow flag.
The joss paper pile being set on fire, marking the end of the pole lowering ceremony.
Perhaps I should take a little of that too over there.
Divine banquet becomes poor man's buffet.

Seeing that people were helping themselves freely to the food, someone took out the roasted head of the pig used in the prayer ceremony earlier and asked if anyone wanted to eat it. There were no Anthony Bourdain nor Andrew Zimmern wannabes over there, so poor little piggy got left out.
Oh look, someone took the little piggy out for a walk...

As for the lantern pole, after all the binding ropes were undone, it was carted away into storage, to be kept until the next Nine Emperor Gods Festival. So bidding adieu to the pole and the temple, I walked back, feeling hungry and mixed with a little sadness. There's always next year...
Heave ho...Pushing the lantern pole into the store.
The billowing flags with the nine dragon emblem - bidding farewell to the visitors of the temple.

On the walk back home in the humid midday, the only reminder left of the festival are the nine dragon flags lining the roads leading to the temple. When I got back home from work that day, I was exhausted and fell asleep, but was quickly awakened by the sounds of the Amoy opera. The stage was still lit, but the roads were empty. Perhaps the gods were enjoying a relaxing show after all the hard work attending to their devotees needs and prayers. The opera went on until midnight, and tonight, I was somewhat glad that it was all over.
An empty road leading to the temple - a far cry from the traffic congested road in past nine days.However, the opera stage is still lit and a performance was ongoing at 7.40pm on the night of the tenth day (yellow arrow).

So what is next? Hopefully next year I get to see the festival at other temples, though I will still visit the Ampang Nan Tian Gong Temple and I have also promised to show the temple to my friends and family. The reason for highlighting this celebration was that it represented a cultural heritage of the Chinese Malaysians who has a rich, amalgamated mixture of religion and folk beliefs that one day might be forgotten.

[Previous - Part 1] [ Back to first post] [Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2012]

Taking Down the Lantern Pole Part 1 - The day after The Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2011(九皇大帝) at Ampang (Day 10 - Part 1)

I realised that I would need to split the ceremony of taking down the lantern pole on the tenth day of the lunar 9th month (the day after sending the Nine Emperor Gods off) into at least two parts and even possibly 3 parts to keep each post manageable. A word of caution - since the vegetarian part of the celebration is over, this post and the next one contains pictures of animal offerings including pigs that may be disturbing to some. So here goes Part 1 (Prayers before Taking the Lantern Pole Down):
Dawn over the Ampang Nan Tian Gong Temple on the 6th of October 2011.

The ceremony was originally scheduled for 9am on the 6th of October 2011, but just like the sending off ceremony, it was brought forward to a later time. About half past ten, a crane backed into the temple's compound. Taking on that cue that it was about time, I headed towards the temple. Along the road leading to the temple, gone were the stalls that used to line the front of the Ampang Old Folks Home. What is left are only the zinc roofing sheds that used to house them.
All quiet again - the Ampang Old Folks Home.

At the temple, the crane was parked just by the side of the charcoal pit that was still smouldering and had the look of a missile hit zone. Closer to the temple, a large circular mound of joss paper had already been set up for the pole lowering ceremony. Workers were busy clearing away the baskets full of trash by loading them onto a small lorry to be carted off presumably to their 'dump' site for open burning. Female workers were also carting the fencing that was used yesterday for the fire crossing.
The pole, the lantern and the crane.
Basketful of refuse waiting to be carted off to the dump site. A pile of joss paper has been set up for the lowering of the lantern pole ceremony.
Female workers clearing the fencing that was used for the fire crossing ceremony last night.

Whilst standing about and waiting for the action to start, I noticed two ladies armed with a small plastic bag and an empty paper box of prayer candles arriving and inspecting the charcoal pit. Ah yes, they were there to collect some charcoal to take back, as some believe that the charcoal used for the fire crossing brings good luck. In fact I did see someone taking away some still glowing charcoal back last night, wrapped in thick wads of joss paper that were smoldering away! Moments later, another two ladies appeared. They were armed with a large milk tin and another with a Milo tin...Hmm, containers are getting bigger, perhaps they are collecting for their family too. Maybe those are not just pieces of charcoal that they were collecting, for the Nine Emperor Gods might have turned them into diamonds for those who are in his favour, and I am not blessed enough to see it (yeah right!).
Diamonds are a girl's best friend...Picking up 'lucky' charcoal.
Everyone needs...some charcoal to rely on.

Thinking that this 'lucky charcoal' collection cannot go any 'worst' than that, I was immediately proven wrong when a man and a lady appeared with this large soup stock pot! This pot is big enough to hold stock for at least 30-40 bowls of soup. He wasted no time in using the rake left there to rake some of the hotter charcoals in the middle of the pit to the side and then scooped those charcoal into his pot. My mind immediately reflected on the nature of human greed, but I quickly brush that thought aside and convinced myself that perhaps he was collecting the charcoal on behalf of his entire neighbourhood. My heart skipped a beat when the thought of what might come next - a large truck backing into the temple (with the reverse sensor bleeping away) and then workers popping out and proceeded to shovel all of the charcoal off the ground!
She got 'diamond' on the soles of her shoes - Hmm, waiting for a truck to appear and scoop all of the charcoal off.

Luckily that did not happen but instead, the head priest arrived with his bag of 'tools' (and he came in a nice shiny ride too). This signaled that it was time for the action to start so I quickly headed towards the temple.
The priest who had just arrived...the wait is over!

There was a table set in the outer chamber of the temple, directly facing the altar of Dou Mu, the Mother of the Dipper Stars. Outside, two rows of food placed in buckets were set on wooden benches. The priest was decked in a bright red robe with a picture of a Manchurian crane on the back. The offerings on the table included pork, roasted duck, chicken and fish if I am not mistaken. There was also the customary Chinese rice wine paired to go with the greasy food offered, besides the usual smoky aroma from incense and candles.
Getting ready for prayers.
Today's menu...all meat and heart stopping. Notice the different robe that the priest is wearing as compared to the previous days.

When the prayer was over, I spied something on the offering table that was not cleared off. It can't be...but then a closer look confirmed what I saw. Aww, there was a roasted pig's head, placed on a wicker pan. I guess if you can't offer an entire animal, you prepare the meat and put the head on the table and pretend that it is whole, lol. Looks like one little piggy didn't make it home from the market or the temple. Perhaps this little piggy found a place to call home in Dou Mu's paradise.
Oh dear, this little piggy didn't come home from the market.
And it didn't make it home from the temple either.

There was a short break, before the priest came back, dressed in black for the next part of the ceremony [Part 2 - Taking the Lantern Pole Down].

[Previous - Sending off] [Back to first post] [Part 2]