Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Royal Invitation - Procession to Invite the Nine Emperor Gods at Ampang 2012

The procession to invite the Nine Emperor Gods is another highlight of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. Here in Ampang, this event started around 5pm, with the rousing drums and cymbals of the lion and dragon dance troupe that take turns to make the necessary obeisance before joining the queue for the processions. At the same time, more and more dragon joss-sticks and long joss-sticks get lit in the open area, resulting in wafts of smoke that billow pass the temple.
The joss-sticks were lit with the accompaniment of dragon and lion dance drums and cymbals.

Other than the dragon and lion dancers, this processions consist of a few floats, stilt-walkers dressed as characters from Chinese folk tales and mediums in trance representing Chinese deities like the Monkey God, Ji Gong, Guan Yin and Guan Di.
Smoking endangers your health and will make your head swell into a shiny, pink-coloured ball, give you funny eyebrows and blotchy cheeks and a silly grin. So there you go, another reason to stop smoking - the lion and dragon dance troupe getting ready for the procession.

When the magic hour draws near, the drums and bells in the temple would sound, as the temple mediums get ready together with the volunteers who will carry the 3 sedan chairs for the Emperors on their trip back to the temple. To see more photos of the invitation ceremony, do visit Cheryl Hoffmann's site as she got a special invitation to be there at the invitation site by the river.
The urn with the Urn Master and Assistant Urn Master under the yellow umbrella leaves the temple escorted by the medium in trance and a huge entourage of devotees to pick up the Nine Emperor Gods. The sedan chair precedes them in leaving the temple. I will post a video once I am done editing it.
For devotees who are unable to walk the entire procession route, there is a designated spot just a few paces down the road where they can wait for the return of the procession so that they can rejoin the group. And the seats are at....(drum roll please) Ampang Old Folks Home - Hmm, not too subtle if they are trying to hint at that those who wait there are...old.
By the royal decree of the Nine Emperor Gods', let there be light...Hah? Candlelight only meh? No disco lights or strobe lights ah? How to party??

When the Emperors are safely back in the temple, the 9 lanterns are lit and then hoisted up high on the lantern pole that was raised earlier this afternoon. So for nine days, the lamps will be constantly kept lit. This is similar to the practice of having a royal standard/flag raised in the palace grounds when a monarch is residing within the palace.
After the arrival of the Emperor Gods at the temple, the nine oil lamps are lit.
Heave ho...and up you go.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the Nine Emperor Gods are in da house, yeah! So let the party begin!

Raising the Lantern Pole - The Eve of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2012 Ampang

There are two main events on the eve of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, the first being the raising of the lantern pole and next is the procession to invite the Nine Emperor Gods from a body of water, in this case is the Kosas River.
The crane was up and ready by 10am. Got me out of bed real quick.
Final adjustments to the lantern pole. They need to tie up three different sections to make the final pole.

The activity leading to the raising of the lantern pole usually starts around 10am. The crane that will hoist the pole was already there at the compound at10am. So after a quick brisk walk to get to the temple, I saw that the temple volunteers and staff were making minor adjustments to the various sections of the pole.
Men and woman at work.
Catching up with old acquaintances. Hmm, vertically challenged = bigger lens???
Putting on divine blessings on the pole. If I stick one on my camera will Nine Emperor Gods make me take better pictures??
Even more talisman for the lantern pole. They were instructed to stick it diagonally and not horizontally with respect to the pole axis.

Very quickly the place started to fill up with onlookers and not forgetting the photographers, i.e. the pros. Most of them just go about, taking photos and not talking to the other photographers. But things change when Cheryl Hoffmann (of CJH Photography) turned up. With a friendly smile, her warm and vivacious personality got most of the photographer talking when approached by her.
The Nine Emperor Gods' talisman - got UMPPH one you know!. The bigger one has the names of the Big Dipper Stars on it.
All ready and well protected from any forces of evil.
Up, up and away...

For me this was the first time we met in person; for though we have exchanged many comments on our blogs, we have yet to meet face to face up till now. With good knowledge of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival and the willingness to share, she is one person that you should talk to if you are interested to see and get the feel of the festival in Ampang. Even as she was busy between catching up with old friends and taking photos, she still finds time to give me tips on what to snap and how to do it.
Doing the Gangnam dance??? Maybe Oppa Kew Ong Yeh Style???  No they were just raising the lantern pole.
And his face will attest to how serious these men take their work of raising the pole.
The Assistant Urn Master and the Urn Master. Either they are deep in thought or bored shit...
The Tian Guan (Heavenly Officer Who Bestows Luck) Flag being tied to the horizontal bamboo pole.
Yam Seng...sugarcane drink for the Taoist priest.

When the pole was finally erected and in place, there was a mad dash for the offerings on the table. As usual, clueless me didn’t get any. The aunties and uncles move like athletes on the Olympic track and field event – in a blink of an eye, the bowls were all empty, save for some grotesque looking black ear fungus.
The ceremony took quite a while, so the smaller joss-sticks burnt out.
Partaking in the offerings at the end of the ceremony. Even though I was just by the altar table, I didn't manage to grab anything, with my two hands on my camera.

I also got a glimpse of the dorms and temple rooms courtesy of Cheryl, as she went to check out her room there. It was an eye opener for me as I traversed through the rooms that would have left me lost had she not been for my guide; for those who are MCG members, do check out her guided tour of this temple here – it is definitely worth it. By the time we left temple, it was almost 2pm, just enough time to get some rest before 5pm when the crowd for the invitation ceremony will start coming in.
Catching up with former dorm neighbours. In her own words, it is like summer camp.

PS - the post for the invitation ceremony will be a little delayed due to technical difficulties and work schedule. Serves me right for changing camera two days before the event. Not only do I need to get used to the controls (on camera and CHDK controls), my usual Photoshop tricks would have to be tweaked as well.

There's Just a Few More Hours...

It rained heavily yesterday at Ampang, which coincidentally was the day before the eve of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. Thanks to a busy work schedule, I have not been taking photos of the various on goings at the temple for the past few days. So just past midnight, I took a photo of the temple compound. All seems to be set for the Nine Emperor Gods Festival here at Ampang's Nan Tian Gong Temple.
The Ampang Nan Tian Gong Temple past midnight on the 14th of October 2012. The green arrow points to the culm of bamboo that will hold the lantern.

The bamboo pole for the nine lanterns is ready at this point, complete with a fresh culm of bamboo and its leaves that will be a prized possession at the end of the ceremony when the lantern pole is lowered again. The Nine Emperor God's sedan chairs are in open view, and looks set to receive the deities later this evening. So next will be the raising of the lantern pole, which technically signifies the start of the festival.
The three sedan chairs for the Nine Emperor Gods. There are stacks of dragon joss-sticks at the stalls next to the 'royal garage'.

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