Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Jiǔ huáng yé dàn 九皇爺誕 2015

Nine Emperor Gods Festival
Tongue slashing in Phuket

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival (Nine Emperor Gods: Chinese: 九皇爺; pinyin: Jiǔhuángyé; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Káu-ông-iâ; Cantonese: Kow Wong Yeh) is a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which is observed primarily in Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and also the Riau Islands.

The Nine Emperor Gods Jiǔ Huáng Xīng Jūn / Jiǔ Huáng Da Di (九皇星君/九皇大帝) are the nine sons manifested by Father Emperor Zhou Yu Dou Fu Yuan Jun (斗父周御國王天尊) and Mother of the Big Dipper Dou Mu Yuan Jun (斗母元君) who holds the Registrar of Life and Death. The worship of Dou Fu Yuan Jun has declined strongly as proper teachings of Taoism degenerate since being exported out of China. Today, most Nine Emperor God temples do not acknowledge the existence of Dou Fu Yuan Jun. However, Dou Fu Yuan Jun is invoked alongside Dou Mu Yuan Jun in Great Dipper Honouring known as Li Dou (禮斗) ceremonies. According To Priest Long Hua, the 35th Generation Leader of Long Shan Men Taoist Sect (Singapore), honouring the Northern Dipper stars prolongs one's life, eliminate calamities, and absolves sins and past debts of oneself and his family.

The term Ye (爺) as in Jiu Huang Ye (九皇爺) loosely translates as "Grandfather", a title worshipers commonly use to bring a more intimate relationship between themselves and the Nine Emperors. The Nine Emperor Gods should not be mixed up with the Wang Ye or Princes of the Ming rebels. Popular folk culture has it that the Nine Emperor Gods are actually sea pirates of the Ming dynasty that plotted to overthrow the Qing dynasty. According to Priest Long Hua, this information is inaccurate and considered derogatory to the actual teachings of Taoism as the Nine Emperor Gods are actually high-ranking Star Lords who preside over the movement of planets and coordinate mortal Life and Death issues.

Jiu Huang Ye Festival
Devotees celebrating the Jiu Huang Ye Festival on Oct 21, 2015. PHOTO: NEE SOON GRASSROOTS ORGANISATION

Hundreds of devotees congregated at Sembawang Beach on Wednesday (Oct 21) evening to mark the end of the annual Jiu Huang Ye, or Nine Emperor Gods, festival.

They were joined by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and his fellow Nee Soon GRC MPs Louis Ng and Henry Kwek at the colourful conclusion to the 11-day long celebration.

Mr Shanmugam also took part in prayers and accompanied temple elders into the waters off Sembawang Beach in a symbolic ritual meant to "send off" the Nine Emperor Gods.

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Regal send-off for the Nine Emperor Gods
Devotees carrying a ceremonial boat ferrying the sacred urn in the inner city procession to the seashore where the vessel is set ablaze and left to drift, signifying the deities’ return to heaven. Photo: Chan Boon Kai/The Star/ANN

Despite the haze breaching unhealthy levels, thousands of devotees thronged various temples to bid farewell to the deities at the end of the nine-day Kew Ong Yeah (Nine Emperor Gods) festival.

Beautifully decorated floats were parked along several streets in the inner city for devotees pay their respects to the deities.

The smell of joss sticks and fresh flowers and the loud sound of drums filled the air at the temples.

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Nine Gods Emperor Festivals

The festival, held for the first nine days of the ninth month in Chinese lunar calendar, is a ceremony to welcome the Nine Emperor Gods believed to live in the stars in heaven.

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