Charn Mao Hern Kew Huang Keng 葱茅园九皇宫 2017 [English Version]

The performance begins with a single lion playfully dancing around the surrounding oranges, where it would occasionally pick it up with its mouth and toss it to the public. Halfway through the performance, the lion would head up the ramp into the temple to pay respects before heading back to the front courtyard to continue his performance. After all the surrounding oranges have been distributed, the lion proceeds to dance around items laid out on the red plate.

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The lion would pick up some of the oranges and cabbage on the plate and again, toss it toward the on looking crowd, this is done until only the scroll left behind on the plate. The lion would then sit down over the plate and proceed to arrange a message on the plate with orange wedges as well as unravel the scroll. As the lion is almost done, it is joined by the other seven lions following which, the display is revealed to the public. The lion then presents the plate and scroll to a temple member before performing a final routine which included elaborate act such as a shoulder stand and confetti being popped.

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After the lion dance performance is concluded, the Yin Yue Hui (音乐会 [Music Group]) entourage, which consisted of the 9 big headed dolls (九个大头娃娃) 9 flower ladies (九个花篮),9 Flag banner carriers(九个標存),eight opera performers (八仙贺岁), performers arrived at the temple to pay respects. The opera performers in full costume were the first to pay respect to the deities followed by the flower ladies troupe. After the two groups had paid their respects, the Yin Yue Hui begin playing their instruments while the big-headed dolls began their performance, dancing to the music being played. After the performance, the performers removed their costumes and arranged them neatly at the base of the bridge while the Yin Yue Hui formed a U-shaped at the entrance surrounding the costumes. The Yin Yue Hui then begin to perform a Teochew musical ensemble for the deities with their instruments.

After the performance, the big-headed doll performers don their costumes again and with the flower ladies, gathered in front of the temple and together with the Yin Yue Hui, bowed and paid their respects the deities.

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Next, the large and elaborate decorations made from incense papers were brought out from the temple to be burned as offerings while the dragon dancers entered the courtyard to perform. Similarly, after performing their routine, the dragon dancers paid respects and clear the courtyard. As the time drew closer to the motorcade’s departure for the sea at East Coast Park, sandalwood was burnt in front of the two palanquins as well as Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair to cleanse it for the sending off ceremony. After cleansing, temple members carried the two palanquins and Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair into the temple’s hall.

In the temple, the ceremonial party begin their elaborate prayer to invite the Nine Emperor Gods out. The prayer is similar to the one conducted during the Receiving ceremony where after the joss sticks were offered to the deities, the urn-bearers would enter the inner chambers to bring out the urns. As the urns appear from the inner chamber, the bell within the temple was rung repeatedly and the temple members being cheering “kew huang dai deh, huat ah! kew huang dai deh, huat ah!” (九皇⼤帝, 发啊!, 九皇⼤帝, 发啊!). until it’s secured inside the palanquins. Following which, the palanquins were carried out of the temple’s hall into the courtyard where they began swinging vigorously as they proceeded to the neighbouring temples to pay respects.

Meanwhile, the ceremonial party remained within the temple’s hall as they prepared to shift the statue of the Nine Emperor God from the temple’s altar to the sedan chair. Firstly, several temple members began to carefully remove the offerings from the Nine Emperor God’s altar to make space for the ritual. Each offering undergoes a short prayer as they as being removed. After the altar had been clear, the ceremonial party paid their respects to the Nine Emperor God statue once again before climbing up onto the altar and while kneeling, lifted the statue cautiously manner and passed it to the main urn-bearer and several other temple members.

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The bell in the temple chimed as the statue was carried over to the sedan chair where it was gently rested atop a stack of incense paper which had been placed on the seat of the sedan chair. After the statue had been placed on to the sedan chair, stacks of incense papers are then placed in between the statue and the backrest and armrest of the sedan chair to secure the statue in place as well as to ensure that that the statue does not come into contact with the sedan chair.

The temple members avoid any physical contact with the statue as it is deemed disrespectful and if contact is necessary, they would use incense paper to adjust the statue instead. After securing the statue, a yellow flower ball is attached to its centre of the statue and the statue’s robe (九皇⽟袍) is then a delicately adjusted. Finally, the beard of the statue is gingerly combed and parted using incense paper.

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After the statue had been tidied up, the ceremonial party, carrying the same ceremonial items used during the receiving ceremony, proceeded outside the temple with the Nine Emperor God’s statue in the sedan chair trailing behind. Before the Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair descends the ramp, the two palanquins outside would charge towards the statue three times as a form of respect. The procession then took their respective positions, with the ceremonial party at the head, followed by the Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair, the palanquins, and the behind devotees respectively.

Instead of heading towards Arumugam Road, this time round the entourage proceeds towards the motorcade parked along Ubi Ave 1 through the back of the temple. As the procession headed towards the motorcade, the Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair is accompanied by a temple member holding up a royal parasol to shield the statue from the sun. The sedan chair for the statue of the Nine Emperor God is to be carried only by the main temple members whom despite their age, are extremely cheerfully and full of energy, occasionally swapping out with other temple members.

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As the procession walked down Ubi Ave 1, the procession drew the attention of curious onlookers and some pedestrians upon seeing the palanquins and the Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair, made a quick prayer as the procession passed through. The procession for the Sending Off ceremony is the most grand and elaborate event during the festival. Akin to the day of the Receiving, the ceremonial party and the devotees sat in the buses whilst the palanquin-bearers and Nine Emperor God sedan chair bearer sat alongside them in the lorries. After the sedan-chairs and Nine Emperor God seat had been loaded up on to lorries, the motorcade proceeded to East Coast Park.

At 3 pm, large groups of devotees, mostly dressed in white, had already gathered at the designated meeting area at East Coast Park Zone C awaiting the start of the Sending Off ceremony. Similarly, as the motorcade arrived at the carpark, the ceremonial party, sedan chair-bearers, palanquin-bearers and the various groups arranged themselves into their respective positions at the carpark before the ceremony begins. Once ready, the gongs are struck indicating the beginning of the Sending Off ceremony.

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Spearheading the procession was the lion dance troupe of Cheng Jing Hui followed closely behind by the musical ensemble of the Yin Yue Hui. Upon reaching the entrance of the East Coast Park, the lion dance troupe assembled themselves into a straight row to perform a lion dance sequence for the ceremonial party, Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair and palanquins each before parting to allow them to enter the beach. Similar to the Receiving ceremony, an advance party had already barricaded a section of the beach for the sending off ceremony and set up holsters for the red and yellow banners that’s carried in at the front of the procession to form the makeshift ‘gateway’ at the shoreline.

Once the ‘gateway’ had been setup, the main body of the procession made their way into the cordoned off area of beach. Once inside, The ceremonial party then begin laying out the ceremonial items on the beach behind the gateway which included; nine cups of tea, a tea kettle, joss sticks, stacks of incense paper, a basket of sandalwood, a small urn for the burning of sandalwood, as well as plates of tobacco, fresh flowers, oranges, betel nuts and leaves. Two large yellow candles are also partial buried in the sand at the forefront on the flanks of offerings. The Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair is placed down directly behind the ceremonial party as they are setting up while the palanquins continuing circling and swinging behind.

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While the set-up was on-going, the palanquin-bearers would charge out from the back all of a sudden towards the sea, crashing into the surf before circling around the gateway before coming ashore. This was repeated 3 times.

Once the offerings have been laid out and the tea poured, the palanquins took up position behind the Nine Emperor God’s sedan chair and settled down. Next, the main urn-bearer and assistant bearers then proceed to remove the urn from the palanquins and place behind the offerings. The entourage began to cheer “Kew Ong Da Deh, Huat ah! Kew Ong Da Deh, Hua ah!t” continuously as the urn was brought out then they collectively knelt down for the Sending Off prayers to begin.

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