Kim San Tze (金山寺) NEG Festival 2017 -English Version

Introduction

Kim San Tze (KST, 金山寺) is one of the Chinese temples that celebrate Nine Emperor Gods (henceforth NEG) Festival in Singapore. In 2017, we were grateful to be given permission to document the celebration of NEG festival organised by KST.

KST organised three special events during the NEG festival in 2017. They were, as follows: (1) Visit to Nan Tien Gong (安邦南天宫) in Ampang, Malaysia, to re-invite the Xiang Huo (香火); (2) Organising Qing Gong (清供); and (3) Consecration and installation (安座)  of Taiwan Bei Gang Wu De Gong (北港武德宮) Military God of Wealth statue (武財神分靈) in KST.

Kim San Tze

KST was founded by Zeng De Shun (曾徳顺 居士), often referred to as Cai Yi (菜姨), in Shi Xiang village at 7th Milestone, Upper Changi Road. Prior to World War II (1942-1945), the temple started off as a Buddhist temple, whose main deities were the Goddess of Mercy (观音菩萨) and Shakyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛).

In the village, there were many devotees of NEG who would travel to Hong San Keng (凤山宫) in Defu Lane to pay their respect to NEG during the festival. It was a difficult journey for the villagers st the time as public transport was undeveloped.  Hence, in 1948, seven devotees of NEG from the village proposed the invitation of the NEG’s incense (Xiang Huo) from Hong San Keng to KST. Upon receiving the approval and support of Cai Yi, the inner hall (内殿) of NEG was established in the temple as “Dou Shan Gong” (斗山宫).

The temple shifted to its current premises at Jalan Ulu Siglap in 1968, when it was fortunate enough to purchase a piece of land from a Malay family. With the change of time and location, the celebration of NEG festival has changed. The celebration is much grander and a wider variety of events are organised as the number of devotees increased. However, many traditional rituals and culture of NEG remain unchanged.

For KST, the Nine Emperor Gods (NEG) is represented by the Jiu Huang Er Di (九皇二帝) statue placed in the Main Hall (大殿) and Jiu Huang Da Di (九皇大帝) in the Inner Hall (内殿). The operation of the temple is dependent on the efforts of their members.

Preparation

08 October 2017

Cleaning of the temple premises was done prior to NEG festival by the members of the temple. It also includes the preparation of “The Bridge of Peace” (平安圣桥)  and sedan chairs. The sedan chairs were kept in the Inner hall after the end of NEG festival each year and only taken out on the first day of the 8th lunar month, when the doors of the Inner hall is unlocked for the festival.

PA121845.jpgA custom-made wooden plank for the Dragon Boat (龍船) was also prepared by the temple members. It was attached to the base of the dragon boat to support it for the sail during the Sending- off ceremony of NEG.

Changing of Banner – the declaration of a vegetarian diet

12 October 2017 (24th day of 8th lunar month)

The temple’s declaration of the start of a strict vegetarian diet for NEG festival began at 8pm on 12 Oct 2017. The need to follow a strict vegetarian diet during the festival is bound to different beliefs. Some devotees regard it as a period to stop the “killing” (殺生). While others, see it as a means to “cleanse” their body from all the sins that they have incurred, such as the act of consuming meat products. As such, the consumption of alcohol, meat products, garlic, onion, spring onion is forbidden.

At 8 pm, the temple helpers started off by offering incenses to all the deities in the temple, as a form of respect, informing them that during NEG festival a strict vegetarian diet would be implemented. Followed by that, a series of changes were made to the temple’s decorations.

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First, the Zai Jie “齋戒” signboards were stuck onto the walls on both sides of the entrance of the main hall. This acted as a reminder that only devotees who abided by the vegetarian diet are allowed to enter the premises of the temple during this period.

Second, the red banner and lanterns, representing The Jade Emperor (玉皇上帝), hanging on the front porch of the main hall were removed. These were replaced with a yellow banner stating Jin Shan Si Dou Shan Gong Qing Zhu Jiu Huang Da Di Qian Qiu “金山寺斗山宮庆祝九皇大帝千秋” and a pair of Jiu Huang Da Di “九皇大帝” lanterns.PA122106.JPG

Third, a yellow embroidered ball (綉球) headband was tied to the statue of  Jiu Huang Er Di’s (九皇二帝) forehead. Embroidered balls were also used to decorate the sedan chairs. These embroidered balls were made by a male temple member.

Lastly, two flag banners along with two set of gongs were tied to the side pillars, which were used in different occasions during the NEG festival.  On these flag banners  “silence, 肅靜” and “avoidance, 迴避” is written on it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Visiting Ampang

19 October 2017

Every 3 years, when a leap month (闰月) occurs, KST will visit Nan Tian Gong (南天宫) in Ampang, Malaysia during the NEG festival. Although the NEG’s Xiang Huo that KST invited was from Hong San Keng (凤山宫), the roots of KST’s NEG’s Xiang Huo came from this temple in Ampang.

During the visit, they attended the Nan Tian Gong’s Receiving Ceremony and re-invite  NEG’s Xiang Huo back to the KST. This re-invitation and visit to Ampang are to re-establish and strengthen the relationship between the temples and it symbolises that KST will never forget its roots.

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Receiving Ceremony (請水)

18 October 2017 (29th day of 8th lunar month)

In the early morning, the chef and temple members began preparing the vegetarian buffet offered to the devotees and guests. They were also preparing a feast for the Kao Shang Wu Ying Jiang Jun (犒賞五營將軍), Ko Khun in Hokkien, which refers to the offering of food and drinks to the Five Commanders (五營將軍) and their horses. A unique feature of KST is that they also pay respect to the Black and White Impermanence (黑白無常), which is also known as First and Second Uncles 大二爷伯, during  NEG festival.

There are a few rules to abide by for this ritual. The preparation of the feast has to be completed before 12 pm. Rice and soup have to be offered to the generals while wild grass (牧草) and some Wu Gu Dou (五谷豆) – a mixture of green, red, yellow, black and white beans have to be offered to the horses. This is done as a form of respect and appreciation for the Five Commanders’ effort in “cleansing” the temple and “guarding” NEG during the festival.

collageAfter some time has passed, a temple member sought for the acknowledgement of the Five Commanders and Black and White Impermanence on the consumption of their offerings with the Jiao Bei (筊杯), also known as Moon Blocks. Jiao Bei is regarded as a divination tool that is commonly used to seek the answer of a “Yes or No” question.

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Once the acknowledgement was received, signalling the completion of the meal, the temple members started cleaning up and brought the joss papers out for burning. This process of Kao Shang Wu Ying Jiang Jun was also done on Chu (初) 2, 3, 6, 9 and 10 during the festival.

While doing so, the Taoist priests and Lu Zhu (爐主) proceeded to their respective positions in the Main Hall. With the sounding of the drums, the ritual began. The Taoist priests recited from their scripture as they moved around the temple premises paying respect to all the deities. In the process, rice wine and tea were also served to the deities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfterwards, Taoist Priests proceeded with the consecration (開光) of the Da Shi Ye (大士爺) paper sculpture, also known as the King of Ghosts (大士鬼王), and the sedan chairs in preparation for the festival.

collage 2.jpgThe consecration of the Da Shi Ye (大士爺) paper sculpture

PA180256.JPGThe consecration of the sedan chairs 

In the evening, the temple members and devotees started getting ready by tying on a long piece of yellow cloth on their waist and left wrist, and a white bandana on their head. There are a few beliefs for the devotees to be dressed in this attire. Some devotees explained that the festival is the funeral of NEG as such they are to be dressed in white, while others regard it simply as a form of respect to NEG.

Collage 3.jpgAt around 6pm, the advance party headed to East Coast Park ahead of time for set-up.

collage 6Meanwhile, back at the temple, things were really beginning to heat up as all hands were on deck. A team of percussionists maintained a steady beat in the Main Hall, waiting for the sedan chairs to begin their first bouts across the temple grounds of the season.

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The fanfare was aided with the lion dance troupe performing outside the main hall. The gongs tied to the side of The Jade Emperor’s altar were also brought down to accompany the procession led by the Lu Zhu.

Soon after the departure of the main entourage, three sedan chairs were activated and began their ritualistic bouts within the temple grounds. The sedan chairs then made their way up the lorries to be ferried to the beach. However, only male devotees are allowed on the back of the lorries with the sedan chairs. As women are not allowed to come into contact with any sacred items due to traditions passed down from the past generations.

With the copious amount of lit incenses at the urn of The Jade Emperor, it spontaneously burst into flame. This is known as “Huat Lor” in Hokkien (发炉) and is seen as an auspicious sign by the devotees.

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At around 7.35pm, the devotees and the sedan chairs arrived at the beach. Joss sticks were lighted up and given out to the devotees. The ritual begins once everything was in place.

collage 8.jpgThe most significant part of the ritual was the retrieval of a jar of seawater by the Lu Zhu, who represents NEG, with the assistance of the Fu Lu Zhu (副爐主).

DSC07137.JPGThe urn of NEG was then placed in one of the sedan chairs, and joss sticks were offered to the deities that were placed in the other sedan chairs. The Lu Zhu then leads the devotees back to the carpark to head back to the temple.

DSC00420.JPGBack at KST, the lion and dragon troupes stationed at the entrance of the temple while the devotees gathered in the Main Hall to welcome the arrival of NEG. At this point in time, different things were going on at the same time.

DSC07240While the Lu Zhu carried NEG’s urn into the Inner hall, the other two sedan chairs paid their respect to the other deities in the temple.

collage 9.jpgAfterwards, the Taoist priests and Lu Zhu prepared for the lighting and mounting of NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng (九皇爷九天燈) ritual.

3.jpgVarious mediums were also going into trance at the same time around the temple. Once in trance, the mediums would pay their respect to the deities in the temple.

Everyone then gathers around “The Bridge of Peace” for its consecration ritual. The ritual came to an end as the Taoist priest took the lead in crossing the bridge, followed by the Lu Zhu and devotees as a form of blessing.

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Qing Gong (清供)and Da Shi Ye (大士爺) Rituals

20 to 21 October 2017

Similarly to the visit to Ampang, Qing Gong (清供) is organised every 9 years to bless the devotees, and for the temple to show their appreciation to the deities.

A tentage was set-up within the temple and offerings were neatly placed on the table prepared for the rituals. In addition, an image of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva (地藏王菩萨), handcrafted with uncooked and dyed long-grain rice and decorated with jewellery, was made for the ritual.

collage 11 (1).jpgThe first day of Qing Gong began with the invitation of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. Followed by, the “cleansing” of the Five Directions (五方) and Zhou Deng (走燈) rituals.

During the “cleansing” of the Five Direction ritual, the priestesses and priests, with different coloured flags in their hands, would run around in different formations in front of the altar set-up in the tentage, which is regarded as a form of “cleansing”.  The five directions that are referred to in this ritual are North, South, East, West, and Central) ritual. The performance of this ritual is to seek blessing for the devotees and their families.

PA200032.JPGAfterwards, changes were made to the layout of the altar in the tentage to prepare for the Zhou Deng ritual, where the priests sat in different tiers to chant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext 11 male temple members, each holding onto a lighted Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva cup, followed the priests around the altar and the image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva as the chanting continued.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe priest who was leading the ritual used his Bell of the Three Clarities(三清鈴)to draws some unrecognisable word or/and number on the word di “地” of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s image. He then repeated these actions on the word bao “寳” and zang “藏” before they proceeded to pay their respect to all the other deities in the temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPA200393.JPGThe jewellery used to decorate the handcrafted image of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva subsequently removed after the ritual. The coloured rice was also separated from the white rice to be thrown away. The remaining white rice was distributed among the devotees to consume for good luck, which concluded the first day of Qing Gong.

DSC03637The temple helpers working as a team to separate the rice for distribution

The second day of Qing Gong included the invitation of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and Da Shi Ye for the Fang Yan Kou (放焰口) ritual, and at night the consecration of  Bei Dou Sheng Jun Yuan Sheng (北斗神軍元神), “cleansing” of the Five Directions (五方) and Qi Fu Pao Deng (祈福跑燈) rituals were performed.

At around 10 am, the invitation of the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and Da Shi Ye for the Fang Yan Kou rituals began with the chanting of the priestesses and priests. The chanting was accompanied by percussion music.

PA210069.JPGLu Zhu and the priests in the midst of the ritual

After a short lunch break, Lu Zhu was asked to move the urn of the Da Shi Ye to the ritual table in the tentage as the chanting resumed.

PA210446.JPGLu Zhu paying respect to the Da Shi Ye before shifting the urn

One of the most looked forward events is the “showering” (throwing) of sweets, longevity peach buns (壽桃) and money, which is part of the Fang Yan Kou ritual. It is also known as Shi Jia in Hokkien, the act of throwing these item represents the “feeding” of the wandering spirits.

DSCF9530.JPGSome of the devotees regard the items that were thrown as being blessed by the priests. As such a crowd gathered in front of the tentage waiting patiently to collect these items.

collage 13.jpg The temple helpers then worked together to shift the Da Shi Ye‘s paper sculpture and all the offerings to the burning site, which marked the end of the Fang Yan Kou ritual.

Unlike the previous year, the Da Shi Ye‘s ritual was combined together with  Qing Gong this year. It is because some believed that Da Shi Ye, as the military commander of the underworld, would help to ensure that all these wandering spirits gathered by the Fang Yan Kou ritual, be sent to the underworld by him without misbehaving or causing any harm to humans.

collage 12With the offerings prepared for Da Shi Ye and its paper sculpture placed in the designated burning site, the priest began chanting at the pyre as it was lit up. As it burnt into ashes, the temple members returned back to the temple.

 At around 8 pm, the consecration of the Bei Dou Sheng Jun Yuan Sheng, “cleansing” of the Five Directions and Qi Fu Pao Deng began.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bei Dou Sheng Jun Yuan Sheng De Dou (北斗神軍元神的斗)

There were a total of 22 Pao Deng (跑燈), 20 red and 2 yellow lanterns, prepared for the ritual. The yellow lanterns were prepared for NEG, while the rest of the red lanterns were available for auction during the NEG celebration banquet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ritual started off with the chanting of the priestesses and was resumed by the priests after a break was taken.

Next, they proceeded with the “cleansing” of the Five Directions ritual. They paid their respect to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and began running around in different formations while holding on to their respective coloured flags in hands.

collage 14.jpgLastly,  the priests and priestesses performed the Qi Fu Pao Deng ritual.  This time, each priest and priestess held 2 Pao Deng in their hands and ran around the tentage in different formations.

Next, the priests and priestesses assembled at the entrance of the Inner Hall, and the yellow lanterns were passed to the temple members (who has the permission to enter the Inner Hall) to be placed in the Inner Hall.  The other 14 red lanterns were hung in the Main Hall by the other temple members.

collage 15The priests and priestesses then returned back to the tentage to prepare the last session of the ritual. In this final session, the rest of the red lanterns along with the coloured flags were held by the priests and priestesses. As they ran in different formations in the tentage before paying their respects to The Jade Emperor, the deities in the Main Hall, and NEG. Afterwards, the remaining red lanterns were also hung in the Main Hall by the temple helpers.

collage 16With that, the temple was cleansed and the Pao Deng were blessed. The rituals ended with the burning of the paper offerings prepared for the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.

Charity Dinner for Intellectually disabled and Senior Citizens

22 October 2017

On the instruction of NEG, KST has organized charity initiatives and projects both locally and abroad, from donations, lunches and Getai for old folks locally to the building of hospitals, bridges and donation of medical supplies in Cambodia and Vietnam respectively. As part of the celebration of NEG festival, the temple organised a charity dinner for the intellectually disabled and senior citizens. With Mr Edwin Tong, the MP for Marine Parade GRC, as the Guest of Honour for the dinner.

The banquet included the performances of 10 performing artists, Fei Ying Da Le Tuan music band (飛鷹大樂隊), and light and sound support by the Chen Shi Yu Lei Zhi Zuo (城市娛樂製作). During the charity dinner, hamper bags, provided by various sponsors, were given out to everyone.

F40A0233.JPGAn artist in the midst of a game with the audiences

Everyone was having a great time. With the dinner and performances coming to an end, it was time to say goodbye.

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Traditional Chinese Opera

24 to 29 October 2017

Traditional Chinese opera troupes were invited by KST to perform for the deities as part of the festival. Ge Yi Ge Zai Xi (歌藝歌仔戲) Hokkien Opera performed on the first three days, and for the remaining three days Xin Xin Rong He (新新荣和潮剧) Teochew Opera performed.

DSC07796The temple has been inviting two different dialects opera troupes during the festival, which is reasoned by the need to offer different choices for the deities and devotees. As the temple is located in a residential area, the opera performances had to end by 10 pm.

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Selection of next year’s Lu Zhu (爐主)

24 October 2017 (5th day of 9th lunar month)

The selection of the temple’s next year Lu Zhu falls on the 5th day (初五) of the 9th lunar month during  NEG festival.  Only members of KST are allowed to self-nominate themselves for this role as Lu Zhu plays a crucial role during the festival. He is seen to be representing NEG during the festival and has a lot of responsibilities and duties to perform. As such,  he has to stay and sleep in the temple throughout the festival until  NEG’s Nine Lamps aka Jiu Tian Deng are lowered.

Many devotees hope to be selected as the Lu Zhu as it is regarded as an auspicious role and would bring blessing to him as he is selected by NEG and would be representing him.  His assistants Fu Lu Zhu (副爐主)and Tou Jia (头家)are also selected on this day to assist him in the chores and duties he has to perform throughout the festival.

Prior to the selection, a name list that contained all the male members of the temple, who wishes to be the next year Lu Zhu, was compiled. Names from the list were first read out loud, one by one, in front of Jiu Huang Er Di in the Main Hall to gain his approval. The divination tool-Moon Blocks was used to convey Jiu Huang Er Di’s decision.

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As each name is being read out, the Lu Zhu for this year NEG festival will Wen Bei (问杯) by tossing the Moon Blocks in the air. If the name read out is accepted by Jiu Huang Er Di to be next year Lu Zhu, a positive response- Sheng Jiao (圣筊) will be observed.

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A positive response was received- Sheng Jiao (圣筊)

In the process, a gong was used to announce the number of positive response that was received. If a person received six positive responses from  NEG (九皇二帝), the gong will be struck six times. They will only move on to the next name when a negative response- Ying Jiao (阴筊) is received for the name.  Meanwhile, the number of positive responses was also being recorded by another member of the temple, who records it down on the name list. As such, the person who receives the most number of positive responses will be recognised as next year Lu Zhu. While the next eight names in line will be recognised as Fu Lu Zhu, whose responsibility is to provide assistance to Lu Zhu.

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Anticipation and excitement filled the room as the temple helpers sat down to tabulate the number of positive responses received respectively. The result was then released and pinned on the notice board immediately.

Celebrating NEG’s birthday and the consecration and installation of Taiwan Bei Gang Wu De Gong (北港武德宮) Military God of Wealth statue (武財神分靈)

25 October 2017

Along with the celebration of NEGs birthday, a special one-off event that had occurred was the consecration and installation (安座) the Military God of Wealth’s statue (武财神分靈) in KST. C1.jpg

The lion and dragon dance troupes were also invited for the celebration and consecration.

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At around 6.47 pm, two floats (花車) were used to charter the temple members, sedan chair, lion and dragon dance troupes to the airport.

Upon arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 2 (T2) coach stands, everyone was busily unloading and getting ready for the arrival of the Military God of Wealth statue (武财神分靈). The drums were sounded upon the arrival of the medium and the deity. They were warmly welcomed and greeted by the lion and dragon dance troupes and temple members.

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Next, they headed to Singapore Wu De Gong to pay respect before heading to the temple for consecration and installation.

DysFTeam_8.jpgPhotos credit: DysFTeam

At around 8.35pm, the troupes arrived at KST. Everyone gathered around the entrance  to witness the arrival of the Military God of Wealth statue (武财神分靈).

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Upon entering the temple, the temple members carrying the sedan chair, proceeded to pay respect to the deities in the temple.

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Another highlight of the day was the “Zhuan Qiao Jiao” (鑽轎腳) event, where devotees walk underneath the sedan chair that carried the Military God of Wealth’s statue, to pray for good health and success in life.

The temple members carrying the sedan chair raised the chair above their heads to create a small pathway for the devotees to walk underneath the sedan chair. Once the set-up was done, excited devotees started queuing up in an orderly manner as instructed.

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As the event came to an end, the sedan chair was brought to the Main Hall for the consecration and installation ceremony, whereby the Military God of Wealth’s statue was carefully removed from the sedan chair and placed on the main altar.

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At around 9.15 pm, speaking in Hokkien, the emcee gathered everyone to the main hall to celebrate the birthday of NEG. The emcee said many auspicious phrases as different offerings were presented to NEG by the Lu Zhu. The offerings presented were: three cups of tea, a bouquet of flowers, oranges, and joss papers.

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On the cue of the emcee, everybody shouted “Huat” in Hokkien several times, which means prosperity. They then bow three times, placing their palms together, and shouted “Huat” again.

Yew Keng (游行)

26 Oct 2017 (7th day of 9th lunar month)

Unlike last year, for this year yew keng– in Hokkien (游行) sedan chairs were activated for the visiting of other NEG temples. Ever year KST visits Hong San Temple (大成巷葱茅园凤山宫) as this is where they got their Xiang Huo.

In preparation for yew keng, some of the temple members assisted in packing fruit baskets, which are exchanged during the visits. It is considered a basic etiquette of yew keng. The fruit basket contained: 8 oranges, a bunch of sweets and a small red packet with some money.

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Lu Zhu is regarded as the leader who will lead the devotees during yew keng as he was representing NEG of KST then. He also had to carry KST NEG’s Xiang Huo during yew keng, along with some sandalwood in a shallow yellow plate, for the purpose of exchanging Xiang Huo between the temples.

Many of the devotees were barefooted during the visits. This was explained to us as a way to show KST’s sincerity and down to earth attitude for the visits (脚踏實地誠信的去相拜).

Upon arrival, the temples welcomed KST with the use of a snake whip, also known as the Cord of the Law (法繩). This was repeated when 金山寺 departed for the next temple.

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The visiting proceeded in this order: pay respect to NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng, The Jade Emperor, all the other deities in the temple, NEG, the exchange of  Xiang Huo, and the exchange of gift before departing for the next temple.

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Devotees from both temples would often have a short chat to catch-up with each other. When it was time for departure, the devotees waved goodbye and would shout “Huat” to each other. They departed back to the temple at around 11 pm, marking the end of this year’s yew keng.

KST’s NEG birthday celebration

27 and 28 October 2017

As part of KST’s custom, a separate birthday celebration for NEG is organised on the eighth of the ninth lunar month, around 11pm. The reason for a double celebration was explained by a temple helper that the actual birth date of NEG falls on the 8th of the ninth lunar month.

Preparations begun as early as 7 pm, tables were set-up outside the Inner Hall by temple members to place the offerings bought by the devotees. The offerings include a variety of Nyonya Kueh, longevity peach buns (壽桃), Fa Gao (發粿), pineapples, joss papers, and etc. Most of these items have an auspicious meaning to it. The Kweh Gia– in Hokkien of NEG would also prepare fruit baskets to offer to NEG, these were specially placed in the Inner Hall.

Shen Pao (神袍) were also stacked on the tables just right outside the Main Hall (大殿). These were bought by the devotees as offerings to NEG,  with the devotees’ names written on it. The Shen Pao that were prepared specifically for NEG and The Jade Emperor were kept aside as these are only offered to the gods during the 10th day of the ninth lunar month; when NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng is lowered and the Inner Hall doors are shut.

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At around 10.45pm, the temple members began lighting up joss sticks and distributed to the devotees. At this point in time, the vegetarian birthday cake prepared for the celebration was brought out.  Meanwhile, the medium of NEG (九皇大帝) was already in trance in the Inner Hall, and with the arrival of the Taoist priests, the celebration started.

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As the priest chanted, fruit baskets offered to NEG by his Kweh Gia were taken out from the Inner Hall respectively. These will be given back to them for the consumption of good luck.

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Joss sticks were collected from the devotees and placed in the urn with the help of the Kweh Gia at the end of the ritual. The NEG (九皇二弟) medium was then invited out from the Inner Hall and the devotees sang Happy Birthday song in multiple languages to NEG.

The NEG (九皇二弟) medium then returned back to the Inner Hall (内殿), Lu Zhu then used the “moon blocks” (筊杯) to seek NEG’s acknowledgement to proceed with the burning of the Shen Pao (神袍). Once a positive response (圣筊) was obtained, they began loading the joss papers and Shen Pao (神袍) on the lorry. The offerings were then brought to the designated burning site for burning.

NEG Sending-off Ceremony (送驾)

28 October 2017 (9th day of 9th lunar month)

The devotees returned to East Coast Park (ECP) to conduct the Sending-off Ceremony for NEG, in the evening of the 9th of the ninth lunar month every year.

In preparation for the ceremony, temple members first decorated the dragon boat with paper puppet figures and several flags, with the temple’s name written on it.

At around 3:10 pm, the Taoist priests arrived for the consecration rituals. It began in the Main Hall, with the priests informing the deities about the Sending-off ceremony.

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Meanwhile, the temple members busily prepared the ritual necessities and shifted the dragon boat in place for the consecration ceremony.

The Taoist priests began consecrating the Pao Deng (跑燈) from Shan Tang (善堂) along with other auspicious items that are to be auctioned during the celebration banquet.

Afterwards, the Taoist priest proceeded with the consecration of the dragon boat. He dipped a Chinese ink brush in a teacup filled with red ink and dotted on various areas of the dragon boat and chanted.

At around 5.50pm, the advance party began loading the lorry with all the materials needed for set-up and left for East Coast Park.

In the temple, the priest began deactivating the “The Bridge of Peace” (平安圣桥). The oil lamp placed at the bottom of the bridge was moved to the altar of the Main Hall.  The priest then tapped the bridge at several places with a ritual sword. Offerings placed at the bridge were removed along with talismans and the bridge was then carried away.

Next, the devotees gathered in front of the main altar in the main hall (大殿) to perform the Three Bows and Nine Genuflections (三拜九叩礼).

As the Lu Zhu led the way to the beach, the sedan chairs came “alive” for their final bouts of the year within the temple grounds. Paper money folded into shapes of sycees were loaded and stuffed onto the sedan chairs. Many temple helpers also grabbed their last chance to carry the sedan chairs. Finally, as the first sedan chair crossed the threshold, paper money was thrown into the air with much fanfare in a display of celebration.

Upon arrival, all the devotees removed the white bandana and yellow cloth that they had tied on their waist and wrist during the festival into a metal cage. These were burned at the end of the ritual.

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Lu Zhu proceeded straight towards the table set-up at the beach to place NEG’s Xiang Huo. The temple members carrying the dragon boat followed closely behind.

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Meanwhile, the sedan chairs ran into the open spaces.  There was a sense of heightened energy as the drums and cymbals played and the chairs swayed.

Mr Edwin Tong, the MP for Marine Parade GRC, arrived to witness the ceremony.

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At around 9.30 pm, the sedan chairs “charged” towards the sea and settled down in front of the table set-up for the ritual. The urn in the sedan chair was removed and placed on the table.

Subsequently, the temple members started tearing off all the decorations on the sedan chairs and placed it into the metal cage.

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The devotees got on their knees, holding onto the joss sticks as instructed. During the ritual, the devotees shouted “Huat” several times along with the priests.

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One of the highlights of the ritual was the release of the dragon boat. Upon receiving the cue from the Taoist priests, some of the temple members lit up the torches that were prepared earlier and others assisted in pushing the dragon boat into the sea.

The dragon boat was pulled into the sea by a small boat. Once the dragon boat hits the seawater, the temple member in the small boat released the tortoise-shaped buns, representing the wishes of the devotees, into the sea.

Joss sticks were collected from the devotees and placed in the urn. Afterwards, Lu Zhu walked over to the table, carried the urn and headed straight towards the sea accompanied by Fu Lu Zhu to release the urn.

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At this point in time, everyone’s gaze was on the urn. It is believed that the further and longer the urn floats before it sinks to the bottom of the sea, the year would be a better one for the devotees. Once the urn sank, the devotees rushed into the sea and splashed themselves with seawater as an auspicious act to wash away their bad luck. The metal cage that held the cloth, joss papers and sticks were lit up, marking the end of the ritual.

Once again,  Lu Zhu held NEG’s Xiang Huo and led the devotees back to the temple.

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Upon reaching, the Lu Zhu headed for the Inner Hall while the sedan chairs were brought to the Main Hall for dismantling, and the deities was invited back to the main altar by the temple members. This marked the end of the ceremony.

The lowering of NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng (九皇九天燈), the sending-off of The Jade Emperor (玉帝), and closing of Inner Hall’s door

29 Oct 2017

When we arrived around 9.30 am in the morning, the temple helpers were already busily tearing down the decorations and shifted the sedan chairs outside the Inner Hall. Everyone was wearing their own day-to-day clothing today.

The main events were the lowering of NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng, the sending-off of The Jade Emperor, and the closing of the doors of the Inner Hall.

At around 10 am, the Taoist priest arrived for the ritual. The ritual began at the Main Hall and proceeded outside to where NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng was hung. The NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng was lowered by the temple members and was kept immediately.

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The Jiu Tian Deng of NEG is an important element.  The NEG’s Jiu Tian Deng is a signal to all  that  NEG festival is going on in the temple. As such the lowering of  the lamps  is  a signal to all  that the festival has come to an end.

During NEG festival, the Jiu Tian Deng is maintained by Lu Zhu. He is responsible for replenishing the oil in the lamps every day at around 6 am and 6pm. The lamps are lowered and he would carefully trim the wicks of the lamps and added oil into the individual lamps before placing it back to its respective holders.

Before raising the lamps back up,  some sandalwood is lighted and circled around the Jiu Tian Deng by Lu Zhu.  This was done daily during the festival from the day the lamps were raised up until the lowering of the lamps.

After the lamps were kept, they proceeded with the burning of the offerings for The Jade Emperor. The priest first chanted and asked Lu Zhu to light up the offerings. They then circulated around the metal cage while rice wine was poured around it.

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Everyone headed back to the temple as the offerings burned into ashes. The Taoist priest and Lu Zhu headed straight to the Main Hall and ended the ritual with a short chant. After a short break, they were back at the Main Hall for another ritual, to inform all the deities about the end of NEG festival.

Meanwhile, other temple members were busily dismantling the decorations. Once the ritual came to an end, they began to replace the yellow lanterns for the red ones. This marked the end of the NEG festival for  KST.

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At around 3.30 pm, male temple members were allowed to enter the Inner Hall to pay respect to NEG. However, those who would like to do so had to adhere to the vegetarian diet mentioned earlier. The female temple helpers were only allowed to pay respect outside the Inner Hall. At around 5 pm, the doors of the inner hall were closed and it will only be reopened next year for the NEG festival.

Kim San Tze (金山寺) Temple Association 69th Anniversary and Celebration Banquet

30 Oct 2017

After the NEG festival, the temple organised a banquet to celebrate its 69th Anniversary and the end of the festival. Beyond that, the purpose of the celebration was to raise funds to support the daily operation of the temple and the various events that it organises. This was done during the auction segment of the banquet, where auspicious items were available for bidding. Auspicious items auctioned included the Pao Deng (跑燈) consecrated during Shan Tang (善堂). On top of that, the auction included the donation of necessities such as adult diapers to Non-profit Organisations.

At around 10 pm, the Guest of Honour Mr Edwin Tong, the MP for Marine Parade GRC, arrived for the celebration. The celebration came to the end with the auction of the last item. Temple helpers then stood by the entrance to wave goodbye to the guests.

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Conclusion

The NEG festival is truly a unique event as the celebration varies from country to country and temple to temple. For KST, the NEG festival is more than just a celebration of NEG’s birthday. The festival represents their belief and showcases the traditional practices that have been passed down through generations. Hence, we hope that this brief documentation has raised your attention and interest in  NEG festival in Singapore and may it continue to be practiced and pass down to the next generation.

We would also like to sincerely thank Kim San Tze for their support and assistance during our documentation project. The documentation would not have been possible without them.

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