Monday, October 22, 2012

Crossing the Bridge - Eighth Day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2012 @ Ampang

Dawn over ampang Nan Tian Gong Temple on the 8th Day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

There is a bridge crossing (過平安橋/过平安桥) ceremony today (22nd October 2012) so do drop by Ampang Nine Emperor Gods temple to see or participate in the ceremony. Be here early (around 6.30pm) to see them build the bridge.

The Crossing the Bridge ceremony is commonly practiced at Chinese temples during special celebration (e.g. deity's birthday) as a form of blessing for the devotees to overcome evil (surmount the Yin element) and obtain blessings of heaven. Regardless of the material used to construct the bridge, seven lamps beneath the bridge and a basin of water is a must, as the lamps represent the Big Dipper stars (Ursa Major) and the water the Yin element, which will 'absorb' all the negative energy of those passing above.
This is the way we build a bridge, we build a bridge... Pieces of wooden truss and planks gets assembled into a bridge for the ceremony.

At Ampang Nan Tian Gong, the day (or rather the evening) starts with the setting up of the bridge. This is the part that I like most as it is fun to watch how seemingly unlikely pieces of planks and stands can be made into a bridge about one and a half foot off the ground. This process of setting up the bridge usually occurs around 6.30pm, when it is still bright.
Setting up the bridge for the ceremony. Here the flags have been placed at their respective stations.

Once the bridge is done, flags and flowers are placed at several locations along the bridge. A pair of black flags, called the Or Leng Ki, guards the entrance and exit of the bridge. Beneath the bridge, water (the Yin element, or the empty space) is represented by a bucket of water, and also underneath the bridge are seven oil lamps - a representation of the visible stars of the Big Dipper (two more Messier object makes up nine - the Nine Emperor Gods).
The Or Leng Ki protecting the bridge before it is being 'opened' by the Taoist priest and medium.
The ground beneath the bridge gets lined with joss paper and seven oil lamps are placed on top of the lined ground (one of the seven lamps is highlighted in this picture).
The bridge all ready and set... And photographers waiting for the action to start.

P: Psst, don't look back but I think there's something behind our backs.
A: You sure?? Don't scare me. I hope it is not a bridge troll!
P: Dunno. Could be another crazy photographer taking us squatting here, looking very unceremonious.
Me: Hehe! These two guys are gonna get this photo captioned with them taking a crap whilst waiting for the bridge crossing ceremony.

The ground beneath the bridge, the area leading to and from the bridge as well as all along the bridge gets a lining of joss-paper that will be constantly added as the ceremony progresses. The bridge will be 'manned' (or rather divinely guarded by the medium in trance) by the deities at the entrance as well as the exit of the bridge, with the 'big boss' seated on a sedan chair with nails facing the exit point of the bridge.

Gostan..gostan...What do you mean you don't want it here? The sedan chair for the medium - there is a bed of nails on the seat as well as on the foot rest, so it isn't a very comfortable chair be be on.
Waiting fot the Emperor...The Emperor's chair with a talisman seal on one of the back rest. The Or Leng Ki can be seen in this picture.
Why are we waiting?? Oh, the Emperor is facing a little 'wardrobe issue' and his make-up artist isn't here yet! Tsk! tsk! tsk!

When everything is set, all that is to be done is to wait for the auspicious hour, which is heralded by the clanging of temple bells and cymbals. This signals to the temple staff to light the seven lamps as the Taoist priest and the mediums, who are in trance approach the bridge. The mediums will cross the bridge first, to be followed by his 'royal entourage' of priests, urn master and devotees.
Must remember chin up...or else my false beard will fall off! A medium in trance as Guan Di crossing the bridge. He will then stand by the entrance of the bridge.

One medium will guard the entrance (this year they seemed to had taken invited Guan Di - the Chinese God of War, instead of the Finance Minister) and another the exit end of the bridge. The Emperor is seated on his sedan chair, facing the bridge, to provide additional blessings and advice to those who cross the bridge.
Say cheese! Hmm, how about say Konica! No? Ok lets try Yashica...Mamiya...Kubota...Toyota...Shizuka...Still no smile? Hmm, Lolita? Ok...Kow Ong Yea....yes??? Oh wait, he is in trance, just snap the bloody photo. One of the medium in trance standing guard at the exit of the bridge.

After the 'royal entourage' had crossed the bridge, older mature-aged devotees who wish to cross the bridge are given priority, and there are first aiders and volunteers who will help those who find crossing this bridge physically challenging. Also, children and infants are allowed to go through the 'express lane' whilst the rest will have to queue up and wait for their turn. As one crosses the bridge, the temple staff will stamp the back of your shirt with the temple seal as a sign of blessings. Donations buckets are banged on the bridge railings by the temple staff and monetary contributions are greeted with shouts of prosperity and good luck.
Mature-aged persons who wishes to cross the bridge are given priority, and so are children and toddlers. The queue was especially long this year, and we were asked to get white head covers for the bridge crossing.
Mommy, mommy, look it is Chinese Santa Claus! Nolah, is is just Uncle Guan Di giving lollipops to children crossing the bridge. I didn't get any but many 'big boys' aka temple assistants got them.
View of the exit end of the bridge,  from behind the Emperor. I believe the feathers on his cap are that of an Argus pheasant.
Smile...nope, he is definitely 'zoned out'.  Maybe he is not smiling because he is worried of the guy next to him suffering from severe bouts of flatulence. Another medium in trance - he guards the exit end of the bridge.

Since this event is open for all, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, believers or just crossing for fun, many visitors took the opportunity to participate in this ceremony. Personally, I felt that the bridge crossing for this year had more participants than the previous year; the time taken for the entire crossing this year was much longer too. The last batch of people to cross the bridge are the volunteers and temple staff.

This is followed by the the musicians (percussionist) and finally the medium, whom will be the last to cross the bridge. As the Emperor enters the bridge, the pair of Or Leng Ki on the entrance side are tied so as to block anything  from going in or out. Once the Emperor exits the bridge, the pair of Or Leng Ki on the exit end is also quickly tied across the bridge, blocking evil from following those who had crossed the bridge earlier.
Here comes the Emperor - the final run through the bridge.
The Emperor coming through the bridge. You can see that the Or Leng Ki on the entrance side is in the process of being tied together to close the bridge (lower left corner of pic).

After the ceremony, the crowd slowly disperse, only to be replaced by visitors that had just arrived. The flow of visitors to this temple never seem to cease, day or night. To end this post, here is a photo especially for Cheryl...
The reason for smoke apparently coming from his body...
1) He is hawt (appearance wise)
2) He is hot (temperament wise - someone pissed him off bad)
3) He is Hot (temperature wise - pants on fire??) or...
4) His is HOT like a deity that had decended from Heaven??(think of Thor etc.)

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