Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sending off the Nine Emperor Gods - The finale to the Nine Emperor Gods Festival (morning of Day 10)

Unlike in Penang, where the Nine Emperor Gods are sent off in a grand procession that usually involves mediums and a certain amount of body piercing plus the use of boats, the Nine Emperor Gods in Ampang go off with less grandeur and sans the boat. After all, Ampang is miles away from the sea. This year, the sending off of the Nine Emperor Gods was supposedly scheduled at 3am on the 6th of October 2011. However, at the end of the fire crossing and the passing round the offering ceremony, an announcement was made that the sending off will commence at 3.30am! Had it not been for Andrea, whom I've just met and chatted earlier, I would probably had slept off and not make any effort to take photos of this procession. Tired and literally 'burnt up' by the heat from the fire crossing pit, I fell asleep in front of my computer until the din of cymbals clanging and the announcements from the temple got me up. I could see from my window that the devotees in white were just about to leave the temple. It was a record for me, for I had never ran so fast as if my dear life depended on it. I managed to catch the procession as they passed by the junction of Jalan Merdeka and Jalan Wawasan Ampang 4/2.
The sending off procession heading down Jalan Besar Pekan Ampang. This was around 4am in the morning! The yellow arrow indicates the yellow parasol in which the urn of the Nine Emperor Gods is being carried by the Urn Master.
The medium, the Or Leng Ki and the urn hidden from view under the yellow parasol.

For the sending off procession, it was a simple and short one. No dragon dances, no lion dances. Just a small lighted sign, one lorry, some temple musicians, the urn being carried underneath the yellow parasol, the mediums in trance and a large number of white clothed devotees. No wonder they can move at such a fast pace. Also, the route is very short. They start off at the temple, go down Jalan Merdeka pass the junction of Jalan Wawasan Ampang 4/2, and continue onto Jalan Besar Pekan Ampang (Ampang Village Centre main road) then turn around back onto Jalan Ampang (heading towards Jalan Bukit Belacan) at the Y-intersection where the police station is located.

Just around the vicinity of Dewan Dato' Ahmad Razali, the medium suddenly instructs everyone to kneel down in the middle of the road. Then the reason for the presence of the lorry became apparent. When everyone has knelt down, the urn was loaded onto the lorry. With a few shakes of the joss sticks that the devotees were carrying and cries of cheers and well wishes, the lorry took off, headed to some 'secret' location where they can send the Nine Emperor Gods off.
Devotees kneeling down in the middle of the road. You can see the living quarters of the police station at the background. The bulk of the devotees at the back had just emerged from the Y-junction.
The urn beneath the parasol is brought right up to the front of the procession, where the lorry had stopped and was waiting for its cargo, the urn.

At this point, all that is left of the procession are the devotees in white, who then rapidly crossed the road (Jalan Ampang) to the other side and proceeded to walk towards Jalan Wawasan Ampang 4/2, past Spectrum Shopping Mall and turn back to Jalan Merdeka to head back to the temple. I was torn on whether to follow them past the Spectrum Shopping Mall and back to the temple or head back to my bed. Curiosity got the better of me and I trudged on, despite blisters on my feet and soggy slushy shoes from stepping on puddles whilst chasing the procession down Jalan Besar Pekan Ampang.
I'm coming home, I'm coming home...Devotees headed back for the temple.

At the temple, the devotees cast the joss sticks and joss paper that they had been carrying into the joss paper burner. A quick look around and I saw that the stalls within the temple compound had cleared off, and the place looked like a huge bomb had gone off in its midst.
We didn't start the fire, it was always... Burning away the joss sticks and joss paper carried through the sending off ceremony.
Fire fire burning bright.
Reflection of the pagoda on the joss paper burner.

After taking some shots of the joss paper burner (and bearing with the intense heat emanating from it), I walked towards the temple. It suddenly hit me that the atmosphere had changed. And I finally got the answer to the nagging question on why some of the devotees were carrying a rather large plastic bag. Gone were the devotees in white. In place of that, they have taken a change of clothes with them and put on the brightest red or floral patterned dress/shirt. Hell, it even looked like Chinese New Year celebration. The white/pale yellow candles are also missing, and the temple reverted back to the use of red candles. This aspect of changing from white coloured clothes (mourning colour) to red (a colour of celebration and joy) is reminiscent of a Chinese funeral; when an old patriarch or matriarch had passed away, the grandchildren and great grandchildren will change to red coloured clothing upon returning from sending the coffin off for burial. I felt a little out of place and stuck out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, I took some photos before heading for a stall selling non-vegetarian stuff (ahem..real food).
Looks like a bomb went off in here!
A bit like Chinese New Year, don't you think so?
Out with the ghastly whites...Chili red is the colour for the day!
Red, red ...Red candles..checked! Red joss sticks..checked! Red shirt on middle aged men..checked! Red underwear...Huh???

The stalls outside the temple were also in the process of packing up, though one of the feng shui 'auction' stall was still at it, perhaps trying to clear his stock up as much as possible.
A monk deep in contemplation on the mess that the stalls had created. Yes, all things are empty and tomorrow, it will be clean once more.
Buy buy buy....Trying to sell off all the items on display.

Usually at the end of the celebration, devotees will break the vegetarian fast with the consumption of non-vegetarian food, so I decided that I will give it a try just to say that I've done it all. There were a few stalls set up and they were selling stuff like Yong Tau Foo to dim sums and glutinous chicken rice. I went for a rice dumpling that had pork, yolk of a salted duck egg, some shiitake mushrooms and black eyed peas. This cost RM5, which is rather expensive. Also, the dumpling did not have Chinese chestnut, which made me feel that it wasn't the perfect dumpling. However, the dumpling had the right amount of flavour and fat from the meat and it wasn't too smothered in soy sauce.
Rice dumpling tied with reed string (very traditional, unlike the usual raffia string tied ones).
Here's how it looked like unwrapped. I can smell meat...yummy!
Deliciously heart stopping (literally - I wouldn't even want to know how much cholesterol is in this dumpling).

Finally a shot of the temple from my balcony as I slowly sink my teeth on the rice dumpling at around 5.30am in the morning.
View of the temple from my balcony after the sending off ceremony. The temple is still smoky, but it also has a strange, an almost sad stillness to the scene.

As I didn't expect this post to be that long (and it wouldn't have had I have gone back home after the urn was sent off on the lorry), the post for the lantern pole lowering ceremony is placed in a subsequent post here [Taking Down the Lantern Pole - Part 1].
[Previous - Day 9] [Back to first post] [Next - Taking Down the Pole - Pt 1]


  1. I have never participated in this festive. It looks interesting.

  2. It is an interesting mix of folk beliefs and Taoism held together by good ol' capitalisation/commercialisation. Saw quite a number of foreign tourist. At Ampang, I think there are more people who are just there to enjoy the atmosphere than those who are actual devotees. Also, a lot of stuff displayed by the stalls entice kids to 'blackmail' their parents into buying, such as Angry Birds balloons, candy and handheld windmills. The food they sell inside the temple are strictly vegetarian - even the cooking and serving utensils cannot be those that had been used for any meat stuff; plus they don't take garlic and onions. In Penang, it is more religious, and stalls selling such food have a distinct yellow banner.

  3. When will it be next year?

  4. In 2012, the lunar ninth month starts on Oct 15, therefore the ninth day will be on Oct 23.