Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thean Hou Temple 2013 Chinese New Year Celebration

The usually quiet Thean Hou Temple at Robson Hill, Kuala Lumpur turns into a hive of activity come Chinese New Year. This year is no exception. With various activities and performances lined-up, it is no wonder that locals and tourist throng the temple during Chinese New Year. One of the main attractions during this festive period is the numerous red lanterns and lights that flood the temple with a warm glow at night. Thus the temple becomes especially crowded in the evenings and at night.
Thean Hou Temple Kuala Lumpur 2013 Chinese New Year Lights, 天后宫2013癸巳年新春活动
The red lanterns bathe the temple yard with its warm glow at dusk. Many come armed with their cameras and tripod to catch the lighting up of the temple.

When we called up the temple regarding parking, we were told to park at Kuen Cheng High School and take the shuttle bus from there. However, the gates were closed and buses were parked inside, so we drove up instead. We did however, see a bus that appears to be the shuttle service from Midah Hotel. There was a queue, and for those driving a manual transmission car, be prepared to show off your clutch control skills as you join the queue up the steep road to the temple. Parking was not an issue and only cost RM3 per entry.
Thean Hou Temple 2013 CNY lights, 天后宫2013癸巳年新春活动
Everyone was busy taking photos of themselves or relatives or the lights.

There was a row of stalls along the road as you approached the temple, selling all sorts from firecrackers and fireworks to hand-held wind-mills, drinks as well as various snacks - the typical temple fair stuff. A sheltered shed nearer to the temple had the typical Chinese arts and craft items on sale like paper-cuts and calligraphy writings.
Thean Hou Temple KL 2013 CNY
First thing you see - a temple fair stall area.
Thean Hou Temple KL 2013 CNY
If you are running low on your Chinese New Year 'ammunition', you can stock up your supply over here. There's firecrackers, thunder bombs and those lovely multi-shot fireworks. The 188 shot thingy (yellow top) cost RM 350.00 a box!

After going to up to the main shrine hall and taking photos of the lights that hung in the temple courtyard, we went to the air-conditioned auditorium for the free performance. This performance is scheduled at 3 pm and 8 pm every day for the entire 15 days of Chinese New Year, save for the last day where there will be another performance.
Thean Hou Temple KL CNY lights, 2013 Chinese New Year
Little boy's prayer: Dear Mazu, please bless me so that I grow taller . I cannot reach the joss urn to stick these joss-sticks in. Thank you.
But Mazu was a busy deity that evening, giving out divination sticks inside the main shrine hall, as the line for the divination sticks were never ceasing.

The 1 hour performance is by the Asia-Pacific Circus and Acrobatic Troupe and features the usual Chinese acrobatic stuns like mono-cycle bowl balancing act, acrobatic skating act, hula hoop act, diabolo (Chinese yo-yo) performances and a mask changing performance. At the end of the show, the members of the troupe stand on the stage, and visitors can give them red packets (ang pow) if they wish to do so.
天后宫2013癸巳年新春活动, Thean Hou Temple 2013 Chinese New Year Performance
She's an adorable kid - she was being flung about and spun by her co-performer tethered on wires and lines held by neck or teeth!
Thank goodness this was not part of Physical Education syllabus in Malaysia!
Three's a company, four is a crowd...seven is an acrobatic act??

A short clip of the mask-changing performance that is part of the 1 hour show. Keep your eyes trained on his face.

At 9 pm on the open-air stage outdoors, there was another performance of various Shaolin Kung Fu moves. Little kids seems to be attracted to this and the crowd grew quite large around this outdoor stage. As we left around 9.30 pm, there were still visitors who had just arrived at the temple. Most of them were taking photos around the 12 Chinese horoscope animals that were lit up with lights as well.
天后宫2013癸巳年, Thean Hou Temple KL 2013 CNY lights
The God of Wealth floating on a blimp outside the temple. His coins were 'streaming' out of his ride.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year 2013

Happy Chinese New Year to all those who are celebrating this festival. This year it is the year of the Water Snake (癸巳). As I am a little tied up with work etc. here's a picture or two of fireworks going off at the Nine Emperor Gods Temple about 30 minutes past midnight. Will post some videos later.
An explosive start to a new year!
新年快樂, 萬事如意!

PS - Try playing the Google Doodle Snake Game - beware the mushrooms makes your snake go berserk (magic mushroom?),  the tea makes them go faster and the wine slows the snake down (drunk). Bite on the firecrackers and your snake gets stunned. I like the Char Siu Bao and dumplings.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Three Lucky Stars is on Orion’s Belt

Chinese New Year is just around the corner and one of the commonly seen symbols associated with CNY is the Three Lucky Stars. These three very distinguishable gentlemen are seen on red packets, New Year cards, wall decorations and decorative statues and even on joss paper. There are many versions on the origin and representations of these Three Lucky Stars.

One version is that the Three Lucky Stars or Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿), are high ranking deities, namely:

Fu – Lord Emperor Zi Wei (北極紫微大帝)
Lu – Lord Wen Chang (for academic blessing 九天文昌帝君)
Shou – Lord Emperor Nan Ji (南極長生大帝 for longevity)

Another belief is that they are reincarnated spirits and are represented by the three stars on Orion’s Belt. Remember Men In Black and the phrase “the Galaxy is on Orion’s Belt”? Well, there are no galaxies on his belt, but those are the Three Lucky Stars.
Stellarium rendition of Orion. The three stars of the belt are Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Notice that the red giant star Betelgeuse is on his armpit.

The constellation of Orion is one of the constellations that make up the Winter Circle or Winter Hexagon. The vertices of this Winter Hexagon/Circle are made by the stars Rigel (in Orion), Sirius (Canis Major), Procyon (Canis Minor), Castor or Pollux (Gemini), Capella (Auriga) and Aldebaran (Taurus).
The Winter Circle/Hexagon. The red arrow from the Three Lucky Stars (Orion's Belt) points to Aldebaran whilst the yellow arrow points towards Sirius. Hence the Belt can help you locate these two other stars.

This asterism of stars becomes prominent during the winter months, from December to early March in the Northern Hemisphere. The hexagon encircles the Red Giant star Betelgeuse of Orion. The smaller, Winter Triangle has its vertices made up from Betelgeuse, Procyon and Sirius.
Another Stellarium rendition of the Winter Circle/Hexagon (in blue/cyan) and the Winter Triangle (in red) . The Winter Triangle consist of Sirius, Procyon and Betelgeuse, with the vertex point of Betelgeuse pointing to Aldebaran.

Back to Orion, or rather Orion’s Belt; the constellation appears to rise and set earlier as the months move from December to March. It is said that in China, the Belt appears to reach its highest position in the sky near midnight around the eve of Chinese New Year, (最高點), thus heralding the arrival of a new year.
Note the sword of Orion - another group of stars in a somewhat straight line that lies somewhat perpendicular and below the belt. 
Orion as viewed almost overhead from Ampang, Selangor. The three stars of the belt can be easily seen together with Rigel (blue-white in colour) and Betelgeuse (reddish-yellow). Also visible is the 'sword' of Orion. Compare this picture with the one above it (rendition from Stellarium) can help you find the stars.

Some believe that the practice of welcoming the Wealth God on New Year’s Day is actually the practice of welcoming the Three Lucky Stars (福禄寿) or Orion's Belt. As monetary gains becomes the focus of the practitioners, the two other lucky stars were omitted from the invitation practice.
Can you see Orion or Orion's belt on this photo? The belt is on the middle top part of the photo.  Look at the photo below to compare.
The view of Orion over the bright lights of KL city skyline with the three stars highlighted  This is when Orion is setting in the West.  Rigel, Betelgeuse, the sword, and even Aldebaran can be seen despite the high light pollution on the skyline.

These three stars can be easily spotted with the naked eye, together with the rest of the stars on Orion on a clear night during the boreal winter months. Even the bright lights of KL city cannot mask the stars as they set in the West, early in the morning. So take a look and see if you can see the Three Lucky Stars for the New Year. Happy Chinese New Year!