Thursday, October 6, 2011

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]

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