Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sixth Day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2011(九皇大帝) at Ampang (Day 6)

How time flies! It is already the sixth day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival (2nd October 2011). I took a breather from editing yesterday's photos at 12.58am and stepped onto the balcony. Cars were still streaming into Jalan Merdeka from the Bandar Baru Ampang turning. The usual cacophony of announcements, auctions and the opera somehow has faded into background noise for me.
A line of cars streaming down Jalan Merdeka, heading towards the temple.
Bed, bed, they couldn't go to bed. Not for all the.... It is 1am in the morning, don't these people need their beauty sleep.

1.30pm - Went to the temple to catch the feeding the heavenly soldiers ceremony. These soldiers are under the command of the five directional generals (五營將軍/五营将军 - their altar is located on the left just outside the entrance to the main hall). The generals each have an associated colour and the number of troops under their command are listed as follows:

East Camp (東營/东营)
Green Flag (青旗) - known as 九夷军, there are 99, 999 heavenly troops in this camp. The leader is the Thunder God (雷震子 - the one with the beak)

South Camp (南營/南营)
Red Flag (红旗) - known as 八蛮军, there are 88, 888 heavenly troops in this camp. The leader is Er Lang deity (杨戬二郎神)

West Camp (西營/西营)
White Flag (白旗) - known as 六戎军, with 66, 666 heavenly troops in this camp. The leader is Huang Fei Hu (黄飞虎)

North Camp (北營/北营)
Black Flag (黑旗) - known as 五狄军, with 55, 555 heavenly troops in this camp. The leader is Zhao Gong (赵公明)

Central Camp (中營/中营)
Yellow Flag (黄旗) - known as 三秦军, with 33, 333 heavenly troops in this camp. This camp is lead by Nezha (李哪吒)

So in total, they need to feed at least 344, 441 heavenly soldiers in the all of the camps excluding the generals. Now, that is a lot of mouths to feed!

It had started to drizzle when I left my place. Luckily I brought along a small umbrella with me. There were quite a large number of people going to the temple despite the rain (and walking in the rain too).
Come rain or shine, nothing can stop the constant stream of visitors and devotees.

When I got to the temple, the priest and temple staff were arranging the altar for the ceremony. Just as I began to take some shots, I realised that I had not slotted back the memory card and was using the internal memory. A mad dash back home ensued and I got back just in the nick of time. Luckily the rain had stopped by now and I could make my way to the temple at a much faster pace. The ceremony commenced around 2pm, with three Taoist priest who did the requisite recitation and incantations.
Colourful robes of the Taoist priest.
The food was being arranged in front of the altar. I peeked into the buckets and saw that there were fried noodles, rice, and stir-fried yam
Clanging the hand cymbals whilst singing out loud prayers.
The chief priest holds a yellow tablet.
More recitations - probably the names of those who sponsored this feeding session.
Joss sticks were stuck into the food inside the buckets - this makes it available for consumption by the heavenly soldiers.
Hmm, how did I get stuck in here? Looks like the heavenly soldiers might want to ask for some Western food the next time around.
The devotees (sponsors) behind the priest on the main altar.

Psst, how long will this thing go on?? I need to go to the loo...
The 'heavenly army' of white clothed devotees - the grannies and aunties (and uncles).

After praying facing inside the temple, then facing outside the temple and also to the lantern pole, the roars of Ho lah! marks the end of the prayers after several bows. There is even a call of Huat ah! Next, the the main priest dons a black robe and the spirit medium goes into action. They proceeded to get possessed by the five generals and inspected the food offered plus a quick reconnaissance trip around the temple.
The mediums line up to the front of the five general's altar and goes into a trance afterwards. The priest (in the middle of the photo - you can see his cap with the golden crown) wears a black rope for this ceremony.
The Black Camp general slashing his back with a serrated sword. All of the mediums goes to the food area in front and do the same thing.
Waiting for the mediums to go round inspecting the temple.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
A final blessing of the food by the mediums.
The mediums who are in a trance. The first one is the general of the Green Camp - the Thunder God.
One of the mediums having a bloody patch from all the slashing of his own back. No, the wispy white thing above the medium is not the deity floating on top of the medium - it is smoke from a nearby bundle of joss sticks that I've cropped out of the picture.
Finally when they are satisfied, the line up again at the altar and the deities return. The mediums then put back the weapons which they carried during the trance.

The entire ceremony took about one and a half hours. Due to the large amount of joss paper and paper offerings burned, the air around the temple was thick with smoke and ash was flying all about as the wind picked up a bit in the afternoon. I managed to snap the photo of the lantern even though they had a fire going beside the altar to the lantern and the intense heat was searing my face when I stood near the lantern to compose the shot.
The lantern on the pole with the South Star pagoda. You can clearly see that the main pole is covered with talisman and the pole for the lantern is actually a long culm of bamboo, complete with leaves at the end.

4pm - Just came back after watching the feeding ceremony. Tired, hungry and flustered (and burned by an old lady who carried her lit joss sticks low and literally jammed the bunch into my elbow!), I was walking back when I witness a snatch thief in action. A young pair was standing at the junction of Jalan 1 and Jalan Merdeka. I was walking towards Jalan 1. Suddenly a motorcyclist slowed down and appeared to want to tap the guy on the shoulder. I thought, hey, he saw his friend. However, the guy seemed shocked and then the motorbike sped off pass me. What sank in the fact that it was a snatch robbery was the horrified look on the face of the guy's girlfriend. I quickly spun around to look at the number plate. It was done with such tiny characters plus the material for the number was sort of metallic and diffractive, giving it a green purple colour that I just couldn't make out the number under those circumstances. The guy said he was alright when I asked, and he managed to pick up pieces of gold that was attached to the chain. A nearby resident told us that the guy on the bike has been doing his 'trade' around this area quite frequently. So for all those who are going to visit the temple, BEWARE of snatch thieves!. Leave your gold chains and other valuables behind.

Tired and still working on picking and editing the pictures of the feeding ceremony, I did not go to the temple tonight to get my dinner but instead ate at home - so no food review pics.

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