Pekan Ampang is synonymous with the Nine Emperor Gods festival when it comes every year, on the 1st day of the ninth Lunar month.
The Nine Emperor Gods festival started on 18 Oct and the temple To'kong Tian Di Gong , Pekan Ampang was a hive of activity. I eagerly awaited the visit to get a first hand experience of a festival I had last seen when I was a child !! That's a really long time ago, folks! Equally eager and ready to soak the atmosphere in were some 15 ladies of the Malaysian Culture Group , all expatriates, that morning.
Taoists from all over the country, and as far as Singapore thronged the temple to pray to the nine deities. The Nine Emperor Gods are believed to be the nine sons of Dou Mu, the Goddess of the North Star, who is said to control the books of life and death. Her sons, deified as jen huang (human sovereigns) are said to cure sickness, and bestow good luck, longevity and prosperity .
Known to the locals as Kew Ong Yeah, this 150 year old temple has never ceased to to draw generations of people to keep coming back to pray . Donations are soely for community projects. What a great communal spirit! - praying for good things in life and doing good things at the same time.
I saw some devotees wearing white from head to toe and the occasional white head bands too. They had gathered to pray. During this time, all devotees go on a vegetarian diet. The purpose is to keep themselves in as pure a state as possible. Volunteers are countless and some 700 devotees have taken up temporary board in the dormitories.
It was the 5th day that we visited and it was 'quieter'. Not to me, as we had to weave among devotees and all. Cheryl , our MCG guide and Mr Ong, volunteer at the temple gave us interesting insights into the goings -on. Gosh! at times, we had to find a slightly quieter spot to hear them . Moreover, we ourselves were dazzled by the ceremonies, sights . The cameras just clicked like crazy !! I took over 60 pics and really could have taken more :)
Inside the temple, around the altars, smoky incense filled the air. Worshippers held jossticks above their shoulders to to offer and place in urns.
The temple flanked on either side by 2 other temples
It was my LUCKY day to be sitting in a Chinese opera performer's chair ! Imagine how many beautiful faces of characters in operas have looked through the mirror! The travelling 'suitcase', a metal trunk , so compact to fit all the paraphernalia of an opera actress and doubles up as a make -up table.
A devotee hard at work folding the paper money for prosperity for the thousands of other devotees. The paper money will be burned as offering to the Gods.
Helping hands to pack away a big incense coil (RM10 ) for one of the visitors.
The red paper bears wishes for health and prosperity. It will hang on the coil and when then coil is lit each time, wishes can be made.
The Nine Emperor Gods festival attract worshippers from near and far. I saw a few Indians praying in the main temple and having their fortune told too.
The auspicious red tortoises, made of flour with black beans for eyes were aplenty .
Some had babes on top their backs .
Fortune tellers were at hand.
The ornately embroidered clothes of the trance master who plays an important part in the ceremony.
Huge, colourful lanterns adorn the doorways.
A devotee releasing a a few birds from a cage . He was seen gently coaxing the birds , one at a time, into his hand, and when caught, chanted some prayers. ... then , up, up and away!
I spun a small wheel for RM1.00 and got a rooster flour doll and bought my daughter a Monkey God doll. My friend, Suzanne spun the wheel and got a fish! Not too old to play :)
The sedan chair to invite the Nine Emperor Gods to the temple for the start of the festival and for sending them back to Heaven at the end of the nine days.
The dormitories (for 700 ) of the devotees who stay for the entire festival .'It's the cheapest hotel in the world! Only RM70 for the entire stay!' says Mr Ong, our temple guide. Just bring your own mat and clothes and everything is provided for !!
Devotees , young and old come to pray, generation after generation. ' We are lucky that people keep coming back to donate to the temple. All donations go towards community projects - example, old folks home, dialysis centre, schools and the poor. May blessings be upon you!
The stoves behind the walls that cook huge vegetarian meals for the devotees and visitors . How the fires burn !
Volunteers , selfless , among piles and piles of yam to clean, scrape and chopped.
Work to be done, food to prepare for thousands of people .
Not for the faint - hearted cook! It's years of experience to tackle this job, with great faith and dedication.
Come next year, I'll be there again. This time to spend more time and to catch the ceremony of male devotees walking on the coal and the Chinese opera. It had been a enriching, rewarding
experience. Do visit , if you have the chance !