During the mid-semester break, although I'm not really a Taoist devotee, I had partly participated in the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth which is perhaps the largest celebration took place in the whole of Malaysia. The festival is basically one of the most important Taoist worship rituals and certainly one of the most happening events in Penang.
The first ship arrived at Tou Mu temple, Butterworth
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival lasted from 1st to 9th of the 9th month in Chinese Lunar Calendar in which I had almost succeeded in 'purifying' myself by becoming a 9-days-vegetarian. That is, besides a cup of cappuccino in the eighth day of the festival (cappuccino contains milk product). But certainly I had helped saved the lives of a couple of chickens and perhaps some prawns and salmons.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival consists of several godly activities.
The Eve Welcoming Ceremony
As the name implies, this is to welcome the 9 Emperor Gods in the first day of the celebration. Devotees will flood to the Dou Mu Gong temple, most walked bare-footed from their homes. A fantastic Float Procession full of visitors took place along Jalan Raja Uda. A Float Procession literally means that you can see people driving ships and boats on the road in a parade. And of course, the people on the boats do not wear a life jacket.
The dragon head of the ship was shooting out water. Why not fire?
Spotted one man jumping down from the boat
This one was so reddish
These ships will be burnt in the last day of the festival
Playing with Hot Oil
If you want an extreme sauna experience, you might wanna opt for this next year. I am not so sure about the purpose of this acitvity though. Perhaps like other rituals, playing with hot oil is for blessing.
Yes, I saw a couple of old folks wiping their tears away while watching the Chinese Opera. The best thing is, as the chinese opera is playing, there are digital subtitles on both sides of the stage.
Chinese Opera's version of Winter Sonata
Fire walking is one of the Taoist Purification Rtiuals which gives worshipers and devotees a way to free themselves from evil influences. Sea salt, tea leaves and uncooked rice were used to make the 'fire path'. Of course, this is done bare-footed. Some of them even carried their grandchildren for fire walking. I seriously wanted to try out fire walking next year.
9 Feet Skewering
A 9 feet spear is attached through the cheek on 9 spirit mediums called Tai Chu. A group of 8 to 10 men is needed to guide each of the Tai Chu on his movements and logistics so that the spear will not cause any injuries to the visitors surrounding them.
Dragon and Lion Dance Performance
The celebration is not perfect without the dragon and lion dance troupes.
What a happening night!
Crowded! Almost hit by a dragon guy
I was such an idiot standing at the back of Felix & Suet Yeng in front of the 100-children wall scrulpture. The 100 Children - Taoist sign of abundance and bountiful. Waiting to attend their wedding ceremony soon!
The whole of the 9 days festival was such a fascinating experience. I am not a Taoist and I did enjoy the rich cultural heritage. As a matter of fact, my Christian friend didn't mind joining me to witness the wonderful celebration. After all, we live in a society of multi ethnics, traditions and religions. There's really no harm understanding each other culture and religion by just joining or witnessing the event, although I too have friends who forbid to join any activities foreign to his own culture. Quite sad indeed!
Anyway, some of the information was taken from http://www.my-island-penang.com/. If you want to know more about the festival, the above website has a very detailed explanation.