Receiving Ceremony: At the Beach
Banners and Flags, assembling and setting up at the beach.
The scene at the Beach, in anticipation of the Receiving of the deities
The Priest chanted to begin the Receiving Ceremony at the Beach.
Into the waters, and back.
The Nine Emperor Gods were invited into the Sedan chairs. The Sedan Chairs were lighted up, and the Sedan Carriers began their way back to Hong San Temple. Unlike other temples, Hong San Temple’s Sedan Carriers do not walk in any particular formation. Instead, they run.
The devotees waiting for the receiving contingent outside the temple at Defu Lane. The core of the receiving contingent arriving at the temple at Defu Lane.
They made the move back into Hong San Temple.
Meanwhile, the deities transported by the Sedan Chairs made the way back into Hong San Temple.
Receiving Ceremony: Back at Hong San Temple
The devotees arrived back in Hong San Temple, and the temple volunteers prayed and waited for the temple elders to signal that the praying inside the Inner Chambers have been completed.
The signal was when a temple elder came out to collect joss sticks from the worshippers outside. He then went back into the Inner Chambers to offer the joss sticks to the deities. As this was happening, the other temple elders would exit the Inner Chambers.
Soon after, Hong San Temple’s committee and helpers gathered to pay respects to the Nine Emperor Gods.
The Nine Emperor Gods were then greeted by performances from the Big Head Dolls and lion dance troupes, which concluded the programme for a very busy and lively evening.
Daily Refilling Ritual at 0715H & 1715H
During the festival, the Nine Lamps will be lowered and refilled twice a day (0715H and 1715H). Since the Nine Lamps represents the soul of the deities, it will be a bad omen if the light in any of the lamps was to go out. As mentioned in other sections of the Photo Essay, only the Towkay, Lor Zu and Lao Cai You will be allowed to directly participate in the ritual. Also, the refilling of the Nine Lamps do not require the presence of the Priest. Due to the sacredness of the ritual, other helpers, devotees, and members of the public will not be allowed near the Nine Lamps during the ritual. In fact, nobody will be allowed to walk or even stand near the cordoned-off area. On busy days, those participating in the ritual will ‘block’ the area and direct the non-participants away.
Although only the Towkay, Lor Zu and Lao Cai You will be allowed to partake in the Refilling Ritual, they can send official representatives, in the form of family members, be it children or spouse, to take their place. Wives are allowed to take the place of Towkay. Furthermore, females can take the role of Towkays during the festival. Technically, females can be selected to be Lor Zu. But there will be many restrictions for which they will need to send an official male representative. Hence, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival remains a male-dominated festival.
Rice and salt will be sprinkled on the floor to clear off the negative energies around the cordoned off area. Rice and salt will be sprinkled only when the Nine Emperor Gods are going to be moved, in this case their souls in the lamps.
The participants in the rituals are barefoot.. This is a tradition passed down since the previous generations.
According to one temple elder, the NEG festival is actually like a funeral/commemoration of the deities. The Lor Zu therefore, have to wear grass shoes—something that can only be bought in the funeral parlor. As a result, any material symbolizing wealth is discouraged.
Lowering of the rack. This is done by one of the Lao Cai You
The same 3 personnel refilled the lamps everyday–one of the Lao Cai You, the main Lor Zu and the deputy Lor Zu
After raising the rack up, the direct participants will offer joss sticks and burn incense papers.
Towkay, Lor Zu and Lao Cai you burning incense papers, which marks the end of the Refilling Ritual
The Ban Xian Ceremony of the Seng Yiu Association
During the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, there is a Ban Xian ceremony every noon to thank the sponsor of the opera performance of the day. Each performance is sponsored by one of the different associations under the umbrella of Hong San temple. We will take the Seng Yiu 诚友 Association’s Ban Xian Ceremony as an example to see how it is performed.
Upon the starting of the opera performance, two Seng Yiu Association members started to light up the giant joss sticks opposite Hong San Temple. It is the first step of the 扮仙 ritual.
Praying to the Nine Emperor Gods
After the praying, the Seng Yiu Association members watched the opera performance. After approximately 10 minutes, the opera performers carried 太子爷 and proceeded into Hong San Temple with the 诚友会 members.
The female performer carrying 太子爷.
Seng Yiu Association and the opera performers entered the Main Prayer Hall.
太子爷 was passed to the Seng Yiu Association representative and placed on the offering table in front of the Nine Emperor God deity.
The Seng Yiu Association and Opera performers proceeded to pay their respects to the Nine Emperor Gods around Hong San Temple. Interestingly, the temple’s keeper placed the joss sticks into the urn on their behalf.
Around 15 minutes later, the Seng Yiu Association members brought back the 太子爷 into the opera stage.
In exchange for the tray: with sweets, incense paper, tea box and oranges