Nine Emperor Gods On A Rainy Night

Devotees Forming The Procession

8th October, the eve of the 1st day in the 9th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, and the beginning of the 2018 Nine Emperor Gods celebrations at a number of Chinese temples in Malaysia. This time of the year also signals the start of the north west monsoon, which brings its share of heavy thunderstorms and rainfall in the coming days until early part of next year. Over in Ampang at the Ong Kau Yah Temple, it was pouring heavily on the night when preparations were afoot to usher the nine emperor gods to the temple and commence with the 9-day celebration program.

Ushering The Gods To The Temple

The gods are there to be received on the day, and regardless of the rain, the procession to receive and usher the gods back to the temple must proceed as planned and scheduled. In fact, having the rain during the welcoming ceremony may just bring more luck and good fortune! The procession started a little later than scheduled for the rain to abate and gradually proceeded through its journey along Jalan Merdeka, then working its way into Jalan Besar Ampang, and ending at the end of the road before turning round for the return trip to the temple after a 40min stop. I am told back in the days when there was less development in the surrounding area, and traffic was manageable, the procession actually goes all the way to the nearby river where the gods are received, nowadays only the chief priests and a limited entourage does that and rejoin the procession with the gods in tow.

Brolly Happy

Devotees and spectators, from near and far, in raincoats or with brollies lined the road shoulders to pray or to spectate. Others without rain protection find cover at the sheltered five foot way, albeit with a less engaging view. Some just braved the rain without a care.

A Brolly Buggy Ride

Fellow associations and temples contribute to the gaiety of the procession with nicely decorated illuminated floats and staple performances like ‘lion dance’ and ‘dragon dance’ to entertain and thrill the crowd. The kids just love the floats and the lion and dragon dances.

Dragon Dancing In The Rain

Shop owners, business owners and homes who are devout Taoist set up makeshift altars complete with all the usual praying paraphernalia to welcome the gods. This is an important and big day in the Taoist celebrations calendar and business can afford to wait while they pay their respects to the gods and pray for good health, fortune, success etc. etc.

Business Takes A Back Seat

Family And Friends Prayer Group

The priests in a trance took turns to ‘visit’ the makeshift altars and offer blessings, at the same time amazing the crowd with their display of self-mutilation feats without causing harm to themselves. It amazes me every time I see this performed, the spiritual forces which is at work making these incredible feats possible.

Priest In A Trance (Medium To The Gods) Visiting And Blessing A Group Of Devotees

A ‘I Don’t Believe I Am Seeing This …’ Moment

It’s a labour of devotion, and an honour ferrying the gods to the temple in the ornate and quaint looking sedans, which I gather is quite a heavy load as the sedans look very robust and well made.

Ferrying The Deities To The Temple

RELA girls and boys were in full attendance to keep the crowd in check and ensure all goes well without mishaps. From my experience attending the event in recent years, I find they do a great job of keeping things in order and under control, at times even under difficult situations, kudos to the RELA girls and boys!

RELA Girls Crowd Control

And it comes together and makes it all worthwhile shooting on a rainy night like this when you get to capture warm candle lit moments like this one … love it :).

Warm Candle Lit Smile


Hungry Ghost Festival – The Finale

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Taoist festival held annually among the Chinese community in Malaysia. This is the day when the gates of hell are opened up, and ghosts are free to roam the earth to visit the living, and partake in food and entertainment. This year’s Ghost Festival was on 25th August, the 15th. night of the 7th. month (also known as the Ghost Month) in the Chinese lunar calendar. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is veneration of the dead, Taoists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Activities include elaborate ritualistic prayers, food offerings, burning of incense, joss paper, banknotes and papier mâché items such as houses, clothing, gold bars and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls do not intrude on their lives or bring misfortune.

A King Of Hades Effigy Set Alight By The Burning Prayer Materials In The Middle Of A Main Street In Penang At Midnight

Communal celebrations are common, held over a 3-4 day period, and organised by the local temples committee funded from contributions of the local residents and businesses. An elaborate makeshift altar and entertainment stage is set-up for the celebration, with a ‘King of Hades’ effigy taking center stage accompanied by effigies of other deities and paraphernalia. Throughout the days, priests perform ceremonies and rituals for the benefit of the ghosts; folks will drop by to mingle, perform prayers and offer food/drink/material offerings to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck.

Traditional Teochew Puppet Show Entertainment

To keep the ghosts and folks entertained, traditionally Chinese operas or puppet shows are staged; but these days, in keeping with current trends and attract the younger generation’s participation, contemporary song and dance performances are more the norm.

The Towering King Of Hades Effigy Turns Into A Burning Inferno Within Seconds

At midnight on the last day of the celebrations, the ghosts are ‘ushered’ back to hell with a closing prayer and burning of the effigies, paraphernalia and material items offered. The effigies catches fire instantly from the burning prayer materials and turns into a blazing inferno within seconds, with the folks hastily stepping back to keep away from the blazing intense heat. As the effigies and material offerings burn, folks make their final prayers, in hope that their ancestors or deceased family members are satisfied with their offerings for the year and bequeath good fortune to them.

Man In A Final Prayer To His Ancestors Or Deceased Family Members

All photos: Pentax SMC M 35mm f2.8 lens


TIFA 2017 Bronze

Took two of my favourite shots from the IPA 2017 series entry and submitted it for the TIFA 2017 photography contest. Surprised and happy to be awarded a bronze for one of the entries in early April.

Photo: Fujifilm X-E2 with XF 23mm

TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FOTO AWARDS’ mission is to recognize and reward talented photographers from around the globe and put them in touch with the artistic community in Tokyo, Japan. Photographers from all corners of the world are encouraged to enter their work. Winners are selected by our esteemed jury of photographers and leaders in the photography world and are awarded the TIFA trophy, cash prizes, extensive publicity showcasing their work to a worldwide audience, and much more.

TIFA is managed by International Awards Inc.