Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nine Emperor Gods Festival @ Ampang - Bridge Crossing on Day 8

The bridge crossing ceremony at Ampang's Nine Emperor Gods Festival was held on the 8th day of the festival. This ceremony is a symbolic act of crossing over obstacles and difficulties represented by crossing the bridge. Buckets of water are placed underneath the wooden platform bridge to represent water or Yin element, and seven oil lamps are placed underneath the bridge as well to represent the Big Dipper stars.
A shot of the bridge being prepared for the ceremony. This is one of the test shots from a time-lapse project that I am involved with Cheryl Hoffmann, who blogs about Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
Looking serious and solemn during the ceremony.

As this year's ceremony falls on a Saturday night, the turn-out was great and many people patiently lined up to cross the bridge. On the bridge, members of the temple manned donation buckets, the token for being allowed to cross the bridge and also an act of casting away whatever that is a burden for the person crossing the bridge.
Buckets for donation as one crosses the bridge.

We managed to cross the bridge halfway through the ceremony, and I must praise the temple staff and volunteers for keeping the crowd in an orderly fashion and facilitating the aged in crossing the bridge. There were some that didn't manage to cross the bridge, as the ceremony was already too long, and had to be stopped. Well, there is always next year.
The only time when the tortoise is faster than the hare - due to the large crowd, the tortoise bun sellers were doing brisk business, with this seller rushing to bring more buns in.

Tomorrow (the 9th day - 13 Oct) there will be a fire walking ceremony. Those who wish to see this event are reminded to come early, as the space available for viewing are limited.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 7 of Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Festival

One word to describe the situation at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods' temple grounds - PEOPLE! The crowd was unbelievable as night falls, probably people taking advantage of the weekend night. The temple was jam-packed with people and we ended up on the opera house.
The star and the light bulb. Both have seen some years in them, one yellowed and dim, the other wrinkled and worn out.
Waiting for my turn - an opera actor (or is it an actress) waiting for the cue to come on stage.
What's up there?? - a little girl distracted by a phone photographer whilst watching the Amoy opera at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

There were loads of photographers there as well as people watching the opera, both young and old. Even though I could only grasp a bit of what is going on, and wasn't impressed with the show nor the story-line, the audience looked enraptured by the performers.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Family Affair - Day 6 of Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Festival

Despite the dark clouds that loomed over KL, and the heavy downpour that ensued in the evening, the festivities at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Festival still burns high. There were many prayer sessions, and there's the passing of offerings round and round during the evening as it was a Feeding the Heavenly Generals Day. If you want to see photos of Feeding of the Heavenly Generals during the day at Ampang, do visit Sam's blog here.
Dark rain clouds rolling into Ampang on the 6th day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

The prayers saw the gathering of family members, spanning four generations coming together to pray for their family's success and well-being. It was beautiful sight, as the old and young stand for 10 or so minutes together, all with the same goal instead of checking their iPhone or playing games on their pads.
A family portrait - praying together. 
Round and round the offerings go around the temple. This is a must see event, for the coordination is unbelievable.
Right, we have the ugly sisters. Now where is Cinderella?? - the opera actors/actresses come up to participate in the ceremony.

The general crowd started coming in later at night, probably due to the traffic at KL that was a crawl, and due to work requirements. Below is a very short time-lapse clip of the round and round ceremony where offerings were passed around the altars.

Remember that Saturday evening the temple will have a Bridge Crossing Ceremony, so do come and have a look if you are interested.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Festival Day 1 - 3

Day 1

The number of visitors started slow, with the car park rather empty at 5.40pm. However, as night falls, the number slowly builds up, with visitors coming and going till the early hours of the second day (Oct 6). We went for a look around and due to the lower number of visitors, it was a pleasant walk around the stalls.
The parking lot at around 5.40pm. There were still many vacant lots.
Burning money, joss money that is. This is the bottom part of the joss paper burner.
Help, help, my hair is on fire - dragon joss-sticks slowly being consumed by fire. The smoke creates a smoky curtain around the area.
There were not that many people on the first day, so browsing the stalls was more comfortable.

Day 2

Day 2 sees the invitation of the Finance Minister a.k.a. Tian Fu Yuan Shuai. Surprisingly, the energy of today was really upbeat and festive, and the number of lion dance troupes and even the crowd turnout was amazing. As busy as the performers and temple staff were that day, photographers too were busy clicking away.

Day 3
With the only major event being the Feeding of the Heavenly Army, the midday of Day 3 sees more of devotees wishing to participate in the ceremony. Past 7pm, the crowds started to come in in to enjoy the festive mood of the place.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Invitation of the Nine Emperor Gods at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Temple

After the pole raising, the evening of the same day sees the invitation of the Nine Emperor Gods from the Ampang River. The ceremony at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods temple started around 6pm, with the dragon and lion dance troupes pay respects to the deities in the temple before queuing up for the procession.
Smoke from the joss stick stand indicates that the invitation ceremony is about to start.

This year the ceremony was a little less hectic as there were less people who came to this ceremony. Probably due to the fact that it falls on a Friday evening, where traffic is known to be bad, thus becoming a deterring factor to visitors who intend to catch this event.
The priest and devotees go through the necessary rites before the invitation ceremony - photo by Bob Pike.

As usual, the procession leaves the temple around 7.30pm led by the lion and dragon dance troupes, the royal sedan chairs/chariots with the royal umbrella and the urn being the last to leave the temple.
The sedan chair leaving the temple for the royal pickup - photo by Bob Pike.
A volley of fireworks set off tells those waiting for the procession to return that the Emperors have been received and the entourage is on the way back.

Due to time constraints, I will post subsequent days in groups of three, i.e. Day 1-3, Day 4-6, and Day 7-9. This is to allow me time to work on the time-lapse shots of the event. Also, I am also using photos taken by Bob as I cannot be covering two places at once when I am shooting time-lapse shots.

Heave Ho! Up It Goes - Raising The Lantern Pole

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival kicked off at Ampang with the raising of the lantern pole on Friday (4th October 2013). This year, as can be seen from the early preparations by the temple leading to the festival, indicates a very time-conscious organising committee. And indeed, the crane to raise the pole was there by 9.30am and the process was started at 10am. As I am concentrating more on time-lapse and also due to work commitments, there will less photos on the daily updates of the happenings at Ampang Nan Tian Gong.

It was a clear and bright day, so the process was expected to be a straightforwards affair. The pole was prepped in the usual manner, and talismans were glued all over the pole. I had set up my tripod and camera to take shots, when I noticed there weren't many photographers. Thinking that it was due to the fact that today was a working day, I din't give it much thought.
Getting the pole ready - temple staff aligning the bamboo section of the pole to the lower half.

Then as the pole was lashed to the crane and being hoisted up, more and more photographers started streaming in, many of them scrambling to get shots. Ahhh, many were caught as the temple is usually behind schedule in the previous years. Unfortunately for the photographers, they were very punctual and more organised this year. In fact there were more people actually working than people trying to be bosses this time around.
Working together to lash the pole together.

So up the pole goes, and with the base firmly set in and all that needs to be done was to raise the top section fully, suddenly...a loud crack! The upper bamboo portion that bears the flag which read Ampang Nan Tian Gong - Nine Emperor Gods were splayed by the cables! This left the flag hanging awkwardly downward. This is the point when the calm and organised-feel of the event went south. After a little kerfuffle of trying to fix it, it was decided that the Urn Master would ask the deity if the pole should be taken down and repaired.
The pole finally up. This was the second attempt after the first round broke the bamboo section of the pole.

With a little prayer and a positive toss, the pole was taken off the base and set on its stand again. As if by magic, another fresh bamboo pole appeared. Kudos to the temple team who were very efficient in damage management. This affair of taking down and setting up again was also very welcomed by the photographers as the take two meant that they hadn't missed any photo opportunity this year. 
Dance of the priest, medium and the assistant - waiting for the pole.
Here let me help you - this is the second round of blessing of the pole before it was raised again.

Cheryl, Sam and I decided to take a break as it was really hot. After some sawing and hacking and a lot more paper talismans, the pole was ready to be hoisted up again. It was smooth sailing all the way, and everyone, including the photographers were happy at the end despite the ceremony ending late, like it usually does in the past years. Lesson of the day...even if you are punctual and organised, forces up above makes the decision if you actually do end on time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It is Nine Emperor Gods Festival Again

It is that time of the year again...the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. The Nan Tian Gong (南天宫) temple in Ampang have been busy getting ready for the festival since two weeks ago. This year the festival falls on the 4th - 13th of October 2013.
All systems go at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Temple for the festival that begins tomorrow with the pole raising ceremony in the morning and the procession and invitation in the evening.

The quiet and peaceful Ampang New Village is in the process of transformation into a busy, bustling and noisy place as the festival approaches. This year, I will take time-lapse shots of the festival to share with my readers.

Together with Cheryl Hoffmann and Robert Pike, we hope to be able to capture, compile and render an exciting and comprehensive time-lapse video at the end of the festival. For the time being, here is a small clip from me of the activity around the temple leading to the eve of the festival.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Purple Sweet Potato Flowers

This is just a short post. As what Diana has mentioned, the purple sweet potato does go into a flowering frenzy. The flowers are very pretty, almost morning glory-like. Since the container is small and I probably won't have any chance of getting any sweet potatoes out of them, I just let them be and flower on. The leaves are palatable, and even those that felt like very tough or fibrous turns very soft and spinach-like when blanched in boiling water.
Purple sweet potato flowers trailing off the balcony. They do look like morning glory flowers.
Looking pretty hanging over the balcony. This was taken from the bedroom window.

The flowers only last for a day, and if it rains, the delicate petals will get damaged and basically clump together. There are no seed pods as sweet potatoes are known to be notoriously self-incompatible. I guess this can be counted as a vegetable cum flowering vine in the garden. If it does produce tubers at the end, that will be an added bonus. For the time being, it looks good, despite being a little messy running all over the place.