Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Goes Up Must Come Down - Taking Down the Lantern Pole

Feeling a little overwhelmed with the Nine Emperor Gods and all the photo taking (read if I hear another discussion about the Nine Emperor Gods again, I will punch you in the face),  I had to drag myself up and get ready for the Taking Down the Lantern Pole ceremony. Perhaps this is a case of too much of something…

With hair smelling like joss-sticks despite numerous shampooing attempts, eyes that are still watery from all the smoke exposure, and severe lack of sleep, I trudged towards the temple. The sun was up and bright, and the heat and humidity was quite uncomfortable.
She's hot and on fire...Oh wait, it is just the heat and flames from the still burning charcoal.

At the temple, locals were still collecting the charcoal from yesterday’s fire-walking. Buckets and bowls and anything that can contain the rather hot charcoals were employed to carry these ‘lucky’ lumps of carbon back home. It must be a good way of getting free labour to clear up the mess by spreading the word around that the charcoal is lucky or blessed.
Have you any charcoal? Yes sir, yes sir, three buckets full.

There was a slight difference in the order of doing things this year when compared to last year’s ceremony. This year, they took down the pole and fed the Heavenly Soldiers before doing the prayers inside the temple with the priest in red robes whilst last year it was the other way around.
Priest - Damn, still no one that can blow my whistle, ring my bell, and tickle whip me fancy.
Assistant urn master - What! You parked my car where?? Shit, like how many times have I told you before?
Urn Master - Hmm, I wonder why my joss stick is producing dark smoke...
The looks on their faces is priceless. Only God knows what is going on in their heads.
Whoa Kau Ong Yah, I thought we had just sent you off this morning. How come you are back? Cashing in on your frequent flyer miles, eh?
Fat chance am I gonna give you a bit of my bamboo twig, go get your own. Or wait for next year! Temple workers showing off what they have managed to gather from the bamboo pole.
Guardian of the light, or rather the oil. People queue up with bottles, waiting for a share of the lantern oil.

As in the previous year, everyone scrambled for the bamboo leaves and twigs when the lantern pole was taken down. I also noticed that the Asisstant Urn Master gets the Heavenly Officer banner on the horizontal pole whilst the Urn Master gets the Heavenly Officer banner from the top of the vertical pole.
TIMBER!!!! Oh wait, that is just the lantern pole coming down.
Uggh! How do you untie these knots. Serves me right for not learning knots during my Boy Scout years.
Locals and devotees helping themselves to bits and pieces from the lantern pole.

After pole was safely taken down, they then directed themselves to the task of feeding the Heavenly Soldiers. It was quite amusing (the weird things that keep my simply mind entertained, sigh!) to witness the temple staff scrambling to light joss-sticks and put them into the buckets of food for the Heavenly Soldiers when directed by the medium in trance, for they had forgotten to do so in the beginning when the ceremony started!
And here's your lunch, Sir! Food for the Heavenly Soldiers.
Strike a pose. Let your body move to the music...Yeah, yeah, yeah... The medium and the priest in front of the Five General Gods' altar.
Where are the joss-sticks?? They are starving up there!!! The medium pointing out that no joss sticks have been placed in the food buckets!
The final touch to the food offering - a single joss-stick for each of the bucket.
And that, my dear Watson, is how you feed an army on a tight budget... Not quite Sherlock Holmes.

When the Heavenly Soldiers had been fed and then discharged from their guard posts, the locals take to the food, some bringing big plastic bags to take their share. Well, no sense wasting food here. After the feeding ceremony, the priest proceeded to do the prayers inside, with the meat offerings and wine. This is conducted with him wearing the red robe with green trimmings, dragons on the front and a Manchurian crane on the back.
Free food for the local folks. You can also see a table set with the meat and alcohol offerings in the temple.
Everything must go - bring your Tupperware or even Giant plastic bags... In the background, the priest dons his red robes for the next set of prayers.
What do you mean you gotta go now?? Just hold it in for a few more minutes. I have been holding it in since this morning. That's why I looked like a pregnant Korean lady!.
The Assistant Urn Master and the priest. There is duck, chicken, fish and a roasted pig head plus Chinese wine on the table behind the priest.

Since the roasted animals are also up for grabs at the end of this prayer, it resulted in a table hitting and shouting event as one of them demanded the roasted poultry back, to be divided fairly amongst those who are supposed to have a share in it.
Put my bird back you, you... A table slapping, shouting match over a roasted bird. Big Bird would have been proud :-p

After the bells and shouting spells, the main altar grew silent once more, leaving the Dou Mu Palace and the Nine Emperor Gods chamber a peaceful, quiet place…until next year. As I walk back home, the dragon flags along the road fluttered in the wind, and I could almost hear them say ,"Till we meet again next year".
All peaceful and quiet again. Probably now Dou Mu can finally get her beauty sleep back again.
A bit sad, but very glad that all is over - the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

PS: Why is it that I am, like the only 'outside' photographer/onlooker for this event? Like where are the rest???

PPS: Next year's celebration dates are as follows: 1st day of lunar 9th is on Saturday, the 5th of October 2013 and the ninth day of the ninth lunar month will fall on a Sunday, the 13th of October 2013.

My links for the 2012 Nine Emperor Gods Festival @ Ampang Nan Tian Gong


  1. It's good that you covered this meaningful, cultural event. Very informative indeed. You must be very tired after all this!

    1. Thanks, I try my best to give an observer's view of the on-goings throughout the festival. This year was tough as I just changed camera, so a steep learning curve plus work schedule = dead tired. I do feel that the festival can be another cultural highlight that should be promoted. The number of foreign tourist has increased in Ampang for this event (but not close to what is is like in Penang), largely contributed by Cheryl and her blog.
      Is this festival big in Klang? I would love to see how it is like there and in Ipoh too.