Hougang Dou Mu Gong Temple 后港斗母宫 2016 [English Version]

Nine Emperor Gods

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival, Jiu Huang Ye, is a Taoist celebration of the Nine Emperor Gods as its name suggests. The festival is held from the last day of the 8th lunar month till the 9th day of the 9th lunar month and is popularly celebrated by the Chinese communities in South East Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. In Singapore, the Hougang Dou Mu Gong Temple situated at Upper Serangoon Road is the oldest and most prominent temple celebrating this festival.

Day 0: 30th September 2016

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Figure 1. The festival begins with a ceremony to erect a 60m long bamboo pole to the left side of the temple gates at approximately 12.30pm.  The bamboo pole is tied to a metal rod for stability.

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Figure 2. Nine oiled lanterns are then hung on to the bamboo pole to light the way for the Nine emperor gods

 

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Figure 3. A crane was used to erect the pole as it was too heavy for the devotees to do it by themselves.

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Figure 4. Rituals conducted by the head priest to purify the temple grounds and also to call for the heavenly soldiers for heaven, earth, fire and water to be deployed to the altars and guard the temple.

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Figure 5 shows his appointed follower holding an incense pot and burning incense paper. He circled the bamboo pole with the smoke arousing from the sandal wood burning in the pot.

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Figure 6  Sale of offerings used to pay respects, specifically paper clothes offerings; and paper money for the gods.

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Figure 7 Sale of offerings packages comprised of paper monies, tea leaves etc.image010.jpg

Figure 8. Individual sales of leaves, wood for devotees to present to the gods when paying their respects.

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Figure 9.  Devotees could write and paste their wishes on the paper Dragon boat as a symbolism of receiving good fortune and protection from the Nine Emperor Gods.

The paper Dragon boat will be release to the sea on the 9th day of the celebration and be burnt as a symbol of getting rid of ill fortunes; and ensuring only good fortunes will follows.

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Figure 10.  Devotee pasting her wishes on the boat.image013.jpg

Figure 11.  These candles will be lighted as soon as Nine Emperor Gods are invited to the temple and must remain burning throughout the 9 days celebrations.

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Figure 12.  Short opera performance as part of the ritual for inviting the “Opera God”.

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Figure 13.  Members of the opera crew making their way to the temple to complete the invitation ceremony of the Opera God. Each member donned in unique costumes to represent the different gods reverence in the Tou Mu Kung temple, such as 太岁星君; 关圣帝君。

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Figure 14.  Mr Tan Thiam Lye bringing the Opera God out for its ceremony.image017.jpg

Figure 15.  Members of the opera crew and Tan praying their final respects to complete the invitation ceremony of the Opera god.

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Figure 16. This temple has 4 sedan chairs.

Sedans chairs are lighted and ready to be carried by devotees for the invitation of the Nine Emperor Gods which will begin shortly.

The four sedan chairs each represented the 4 main gods reverenced by the temple.

The sedan chair representing the Nine Emperor Gods is the second from the right.

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Figure 17. Baskets of chrysanthemum as received by the temple

These flowers baskets are sent by devotees to thank the Nine Emperor Gods for their blessings and congratulate the gods for their birthday celebrations.

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Figure 18. Devotees participating in the invitation ceremony of the Nine Emperor Gods at the pier are required to dress in attire that is depicted on the left.

The attire is closely associated with Chinese funeral mourning due to the colors white and yellow.

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Figure 19. Male devotees carrying the sedan chairs and making their way to the opening space that is located at the front of the temple.

Each sedan approximately weighed 400kg and required estimated manpower of 30-40 males. The heavy weight of the sedan chairs are attributed to the elaborate wooden and gold cravings and ornaments as depicted in the picture. A sedan chair typically cost at least S$10, 000.

To be able to help in carrying the sedan chairs, the males have to be from the temple’s circle of devotees. Males of same religious roots but not from Hougang Tou Mu Kong are rejected.

These male carriers are split into 4 teams, namely A, B, C, D. Each team is allocated to carry a sedan chair. Each team has 30-40 males to take turns in carrying the sedan chair at scheduled intervals. Overall, estimated 140 males are involved in this process.

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Figure 20.  Water container placed at the foot of the sedans to cool them in the event of overheating.

These sedans tend to get overly hot due to the heat emitted from the burning incenses placed at the center of the sedans.

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Figure 21. Getai performances at the stage to keep devotees entertained.

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Figure 22. Shows the head priest and his appointed followers performing rituals on the sedan chairs before carrying them to Punggol pier for the receiving ceremony.

The head priest would chant and encircle the sedans first, followed by his appointed follower with burning pot and incense paper; circling the sedan chairs with the smoke from the burning sandal wood in the pot. This ritual is similar to the earlier ritual performed on the bamboo pole.

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Figure 23. Shows the arrival of a yellow Porsche, with the car plate no. 999, representing longevity.

This Porsche is also used to chauffeur the Nine Emperor Gods tablet to the pier for its receiving ceremony.

Figure 24. This shows temple participants patiently waiting for their turn to board the lorry and their respective buses so as to make their way to the pier; for the receiving at Pulau Punggol Timor pier for the receiving ceremony.

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Figure 25.  A procession of elaborately decorated floats, also known as hua che (花车) made their grand entrance shortly after, to accompany the devotees to the pier for the receiving ceremony.

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Devotees interested in the receiving ceremony could board the chartered bus provided by the temple.

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Figure 26. Main committee members had the pier at a much earlier timing to set up the altar. However, only male devotees in white were only allowed on stage. Female devotees were not allowed on stage.

Subsequently, the procession of colorful floats reached the pier, followed by the performance groups, which includes the Chinese Marching band (Figure 27), lion and dragon dances performances (Figure 28). The main temple procession arrived the last, which includes the flags and joss sticks bearers and sedan chairs procession.

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After the sedan chair procession reached the front of the altar, the idols of田都元帅 (tian dou yuan shuai), and 清水祖师 (qing shui zu shi) were transferred from the sedan chairs to the altar on stage.

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Figure 31 and 32. After arranging the idols on the altar, the head priest then led the temple members into another ritual ceremony. The head priest would chant and blow his instrument at certain intervals. Members were then guided to bowl and kneel at certain intervals too.

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Figure 33. After the ritual ceremony was completed, the temple members then proceed to burn the stack of kim zua.

Figure 34, 35, 36, 37.

Temple helpers then light a pot of sandal wood and incense paper. Aaron Tan (Tan Thiam Lye’s son), held the burning incense pot up high as he made his way down the stage – to where the sedan chairs and carriers were awaiting. The burning pot of sandal wood were then placed onto the sedan chairs. The idols were also returned to their respective sedan chairs.

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Figure 38 and 39.

The sedan carriers then rocked the sedan chairs in synchronized movements as they made their way back to the lorries and be transported back to the temple.

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Figure 40. Upon return of all idols and processions, the 9 oiled lamps; arranged in a triangular structure, were holstered up the bamboo pole. The lighting of these 9 lamps marks the official commencement of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Hougang Dou Mu Gong.

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Figure 41. Flood of devotees began praying to the Nine Emperor Gods.

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Figure 42, 43, 44, 45. The last ritual for the day was conducted by the head priest to bless the 平安桥 (ping an qiao).

Devotees seeking for peace could cross the bridge within the span of the celebration period.

Day 2: 2nd October 2016

 

For this day, the highlight would be when the Long Nan Dian (龙南殿) visited the Hougang Dou Mu Gong temple at approximately 7pm. Temples visiting other temples during celebrations is common, as such acts are used to establish connections and display close relationships among each other.image064.png

The table began to be filled with various types of offerings as the number of devotees visiting the temple increased rapidly.

The common offerings were a stack of kim zua, packets of snacks and tea leaves. Some devotees even brought bottles of oils and vegetarian dishes.

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Small TV screens were installed at different corners of the temple (ie. dining area), showcasing past celebrations for those who had missed out.image067.pngimage070.png

Lion and Dragon dance troupes from Singapore Wong Loo Choh See Chee Chong Association (新加坡黄老祖师慈忠会) performing.

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A procession of brightly decorated floats from Long Nan Dian temple arrived shortly after, followed by lorries carrying its temple members, sedan chairs and sedan carriers.

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Unlike Hougang Dou Mu Gong, which only has one sedan chair to honour its Nine Emperor Gods, Long Nan Dian temple has nine sedan chairs to honour each of its Nine Emperor God. Furthermore, each Emperor God has his respective group of sedan carriers and lorry. A yellow flag with Chinese inscriptions is planted in each of the lorries to indicate which Emperor God they are carrying.

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This figure indicates that this lorry is for the second Emperor God. The flag held has the Chinese inscriptions “龙南殿九皇二帝千秋”, Long Nan Dian jiu huang er di qian qiu, which translates to wishing the Second Emperor God (from the Nine Emperor Gods) longevity.

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Before entering the temple premises, members of the Long Nan Dian temple sprinkled water around the grounds, from a yellow pail using pomelo leaves, as an act of cleansing the area.

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Flag bearers then enter the temple premises, followed by the sedan chairs bearers.

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Meanwhile, appointed members of Long Nan Dian temple committee brought out the spirit whip, also known as the huat soh, as the main temple procession made their way to the main altar.

The spirit whip, made out of snake skin, is a common ritual tool used in Taoist celebrations. The act of whipping is believed to get rid of wandering spirits, and also to deploy and call for the heavenly armies of the Emperor Gods.

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Upon entering the temple premises, each sedan chair swayed in synchronized movements and charged towards the bamboo pole thrice. (refer to picture above)

They then made a 180 degree turn and swayed towards the main altar.

The sedan chair, as depicted on the left, represents “九皇四帝” ( 4th Nine Emperor God)。

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This sedan chair, as depicted on the left, represents “九皇五帝” (5th Nine Emperor God).

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Upon reaching the central area of the temple premises, all nine sedan chairs were then arranged neatly in a single file.

 

This sedan chair, as depicted on the left, represents “北斗星君” and “南斗星君”. (Lord of the Big Dipper and Lord of the Little Dipper respectively. image089.png

Long Nan Dian members bearing both flags and joss sticks then proceed to enter the temple premises, to pay their respects to the main altar dou mu, 斗姆, also known as the Big Dipper.

Day 3: 3rd October 2016

On this day, Hougang Dou Mu Gong organized a yew keng (巡游行) which is an activity where temples pay respect to affiliated temples by visiting them. Hougang Dou Mu Gong visited ten other temples during a designated time period (12pm to 11.45pm) as a way to add liveliness to their celebrations of the Nine Emperor Gods, and also foster good relations with these temples.

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Our team could only join their yew keng from 5pm onwards due to school commitments. From 5pm onwards, we visited five temples: Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫), Leng San Giam (龙山岩斗母宫), Long Nan Dian (龙南殿), Charn Mao Hern Kew Huang Keng (葱茅园九皇宫), and Hong San Temple (凤山宫).

Participating devotees travel to the other temples in lorries (for males) and charters buses (for females and males) that are provided by the temple.

  1. The team arrived at Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫) at approximately 5pm to capture shots of the surroundings before the yew keng started:

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Fig 2. Devotees of Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫) waiting for the arrival of Hougang Dou Mu Kung for yew keng.

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Fig 3. A shot of the main praying urn for the gods in Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫).

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Fig 4. Devotee paying respect to a deity at the left corner of the central hall.

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Fig 5. Devotee paying respect to the Tiger God.

The tiger, in Chinese belief, is considered as the king of the animals. Hence, the Tiger God is seen to be capable of protecting devotees from harmful characters in their lives.

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Fig 6. Sedan chairs that are used during the yew keng.

Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫) has sedan chairs are aesthetically different compared with sedan chairs from other temples. Although the design of the sedan chairs varied, the gods they honored remained the same.

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Fig 7.  Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫)’s sedan chair for the Nine Emperor Gods.

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Fig 8. Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫)’s paper Dragon boat.

Papers containing wishes from devotees are pasted neatly at the base of the Dragon Boat.

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Fig 9. Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫also had enormous candles that are required to remain lighted throughout the 9 days celebrations, similar to Hougang Dou Mu Gong temple.

2. Hougang Dou Mu Gong approximately arrived at Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫) (located at 561 Yishun Ring Road Blk 123) at around 530 pm.

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Fig 10. One of the hua che, decorated floats, (花车) from

Hougang Dou Mu Gong, representing the Nine Emperor Gods.image104.jpg

Fig 11. Another hua che (花车) from Hougang Dou Mu Gong temple.

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Fig 12. Representatives from Hougang Dou Mu Gong, including Chairman Tan, arrived in their chartered buses; and greeted the representatives of Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫).  .

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Fig 13. Representatives of Hougang Dou Mu Gong marching into the temple to pay their respects to the temple god.

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Fig 14. Representatives of Hougang Dou Mu Gong paying their respects to the central urn of the temple.   image108.png

Fig 15. Representatives of Hougang Dou Mu Gong then proceed to pay their respects to the main deities in Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫). The devotees held their joss sticks at the entrance of the temple before marching inside with ritual music playing to guide their steps.

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Fig 16. The Hougang Dou Mu Gong representatives pay their respect to the main urn located outside of the temple by bowing three times, after which they then make their way into the temple’s hall and pay their respects to the deities there.

After Hougang Dou Mu Gong finished its yew keng at Jing Shui Gang Dou Mu Gong (汫水港斗母宫), the crew then hopped back into their chartered buses as they made their way to another temple, Leng San Giam (龙山岩斗母宫). Our team managed to gain permission to travel in one of their chartered buses so as to accompany them during the yew keng.

  1. Hougang Dou Mu Gong approximately arrived at Leng San Giam, 龙山岩斗母宫, (located at Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 Blk 223) at around 6.30pm.

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Fig 17. Representatives of Hougang Dou Mu Gong arrived at, Leng San Giam (龙山岩斗母宫) and paid their respects to deities located outside of the temple.

When they reached Leng San Giam, (龙山岩斗母宫), the representatives from the Hougang Dou Mu Gong temple marched inside with ritual instrumental music to cue them in their ritual procedures. During this, the flag bearers from the visiting temple would lead the way to the temple’s premises. They also held up a huge yellow banner with Chinese characters “九皇爷驾出巡”, translated to Nine Emperor Gods’ tour. After they entered the temple, they were followed by main ceremonial appointed members of each temple who were carrying baskets of fruits, flowers, joss sticks, sandal wood and kim zua. Devotees carrying the sedan chairs swayed in synchronized motion to the beats of the ritual instrumental music while rice was scattered ahead of their path as they continued walking towards the main temple altar.

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Fig 18. Representatives of Hougang Dou Mu Gong making their way to the Leng San Giam,  龙山岩斗母宫 temple.

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Figure 19. Representatives of Hougang Dou Mu Gong at the entrance of the 龙山岩斗母宫 temple.

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Figure 20. Hougang Tou Mu Kung crew began making their way to the other end of the temple where the main gods altar is located. 

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Figure 21. Upon reaching the front of Leng San Giam’s main altar, Hougang Dou Mu Gong;’s crew kneeled down in pairs as they took as their respective positions for the ceremony.

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Figure 22. In this particular ritual procedure, only men, whom stayed “purified” in terms of lifestyle and diet, were allowed to participate

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Figure 23. This picture depicts the act of sedan carrying. The male devotees sway the sedan chair to and fro to symbolise the presence of the deity sitting in it.

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Figure 24. The pot of burning sandal wood is occasionally sprayed with water to prevent the sedan chairs from overheating.image120.png

Figure 25. Leong San Diam’s representative and Hougang Dou Mu Gong’s representative (Mr Aaron Tan) exchange fruit and flower baskets between themselves.

This act indicates the close relationship established between these two temples, and also marks the end of its yew keng at Leong San Diam.

After Hougang Tou Mu Kung finished its yew keng at Leong San Diam (龙山岩斗母宫), participants hopped back into their chartered buses as they made their way to another temple, Long Nan Dian (龙南殿).

3. Hougang Tou Mu Kung approximately arrived at Long Nan Dian (龙南殿) (located at No 70 Sengkang West Ave) at around 7.30pm.

The Celebrations at Long Nan Dian is observed to be much more elaborate in terms of decorations, food and entertainment (dragon and lion dances performances).

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Figure 26. A drone was also used to capture the whole celebration.

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Figure 27. Hougang Tou Mu Kung representatives arriving at Long Nan Dian (龙南殿) with lighted lanterns and yellow flags.

Similar to the previous temple visits, the flag bearers and joss sticks holders led the way to the host’s temple premises, followed by the sedan chairs moving in synchronized movements.

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Figure 28. An appointed devotee from Long Nan Dian performed huat so, the action of whipping the ground with a whip, to cleanse the path for the sedan chairs as doing so is thought to scare off any wandering spirits.

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Figure 29. Hougang Dou Mu Gong representatives holding a plague with the Chinese characters “正行善道”, Zheng Xing Shan Dao.

This symbolizes one of the important values upheld by Taoists; to be morally upright.

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Figure 30. A young boy scattered rice on to the ground as the representatives of the Hougang Dou Mu Gong slowly marched into the temple’s premises.

During this visit, the Hougang Dou Mu Gong representatives paid their respects at three designated stations.

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Figure 31. The first station was at the deity’s altar at the external premises of the temple. Representatives bowed and paid their respects to the deity while holding fruit baskets and joss sticks

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Figure 32. The second station was at a deity’s altar at the internal premises of the temple.

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Figure 33 and 34. The last station was the altar of the main deities of the temple.

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Figure 35. After the representatives had paid their respects to all the deities at all the different stations, the signboard was placed in between two sedan chairs as shown.

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Figure 36 and 37. During this visit, devotees were treated to both dragon and lion dance performances. These added liveliness and provided entertainment, while also serving as a conduit for blessings to both the temple and the devotees.

4. Hougang Dou Mu Gong approximately arrived at Charn Mao Hern Kew Huang Keng (葱茅园九皇宫) (located at 28 Arumugan road) at 9.45pm.

Charn Mao Hern Kew Huang Keng (葱茅园九皇宫) had elaborate dragon and lion dance performances, marching bands and decorated floats.

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Figure 38. Procession of their decorated floats.

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Figure 39. The marching band entertained the crowd with a popular mandarin song “gong xi gong xi ni”.

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Figure 40 and 41. Lion and Dragon dance performances.

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Figure 42. Performances by lined up Da Tou Wawa.

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Figure 43. The ‘Eight Generals’, also known as 八将军 (ba jiang jun), joined in during this celebration. Each of them carried a different emblem and had a fagao (发糕), a Chinese prosperity cake, hanging around their necks. They performed rituals with striking and posed body movements. During this performance, the chief of these Eight Generals (the one with the bigger and more elaborate headgear) stayed in the middle while being surrounded by the rest.

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Figure 44. After the performance, the fagao hanging on their necks were taken and placed at the altar.

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Figure 45. After the eight generals performed their rituals, the flag bearers and joss stick holders led the way for the Hougang’s temple main ceremonial group to proceed to the front altar situated at the external temple premises.

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Figure 46. Hougang Dou Mu Gong representatives paying respect to the Nine emperor gods’ altar.

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Figure 47. Fruit and flower baskets from Hougang Dou Mu Gong placed at the host temple’s offering table.

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Figure 48. Hougang crew members then proceed to the central hall to pay respects to the high-status deities.

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Figure 49.  A Hougang Dou Mu Gong temple member holding a fruit basket given by the host temple.

5. Hougang Dou Mu Gong approximately arrived at Hong San Temple (凤山宫) (located at 49 Defu Lane) at 1045 pm.

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Figure 50. The representatives from the Hougang temple arrived at the host temple and were greeted by decorations.

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Figure 51. Interestingly, this temple had an emcee (member of the host temple) who introduced each performance that occurred.

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Figure 52. The marching entertained the devotees.

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Figure 53. Lion dance performances.

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Figure 54. The procession of decorated floats.

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Figure 55. Datouwawa and the eight general performances.

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Figure 56. The fagao carried by the eight generals were later passed to the host temple representatives to be placed on the offering tables.

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Figure 57. After the performance by the eight generals, the Hougang temple representatives then proceeded to pay their respects at the main altar.

Day 6: 6th October 2016

The ceremony occurring on this day is known as Qing Shui (请水), and is proclaimed as of utmost importance and formality during the Nine Emperor Gods’ festival. This ceremony begins at five in the morning, and attendance is restricted to only the main committee of the temple as it is a private matter. As such, not many other devotees even know about this ceremony. Led by the head priest who begins the ritual by chanting and reading scriptures, the other three priests retrieve water from the well. They then pour this water into a small red cup that the head priest is holding. The head priest continues to chant, after which he turns the cup a full 360 degrees before drinking the water and then proceeding to spit it out. All of the priests retrieve some water from the Punggol pier before heading back to the temple, where families awaiting them sit at their respective offering table. After paying respects to the temple deities, a priest walks and flicks water (gotten from the punggol pier) at the respective table offerings. This is followed by the next priest stamping on the bowl of cook rice, symbolising that the respective table’s family has been blessed.

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Figure 1. Display of fruits and burning offerings for public’s use.

Day 8: 8th October 2016

This day is the Jade Emperor’s, also known as tian gong (天公), birthday.

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Figure 1. An Altar table for tian gong was specifically set up for him, located at the external premises at the front of the temple image174.png

Figure 2a. A female devotee paying her respects at the main altar.image176.png

Figure 2b. A female devotee “washing” her face with the smoke from the burning sandal wood. This “cleansing” ritual act symbolises blessing oneself with good fortune, and as such some devotees also use the smoke to “wash” their wallet.

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Figure 3. Ritual began with the priests and main members walking around in circles while the lead priest chanted.

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Figure 4. Devotees bowed at appropriate times, cued by the music played.

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Figure 5. Another ritual procedure involved ritual tools, specifically two talon-liked shaped tools tied by a long red string around a yellow scripture.

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Figure 6. After reciting his chants, the priest then threw out the ritual tools before drawing it back to him. He then proceeded to hold his joss sticks and entered the inner section of the temple, which is off limits to other devotees.

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Figure 7. After a few minutes, he emerged out of the room with the joss sticks before heading back to the altar to join the other members.

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Figure 8. The head priest reciting from the scripture book.image191.png

Figure 9. The tray of red stamps used to stamp on rice and kim zua were blessed and passed around the crowd. This is done to enhance the stamp’s powers in protecting devotees.

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Figure 10. The selection of qian(迁), whereby a devotee will shake a bundle of sticks with words/numbers marked on them until one stick comes out before getting his corresponding divine reading. It is a ritual by which devotees get a chance to communicate with their deity.

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Figure 11. The Opera troupe paying their respects and a small idol figurine is later placed on the altar – the small idol figurine is another version of tian du yuan shuai (田都元帅).

Day 9: 9th October 2016

The 9th day marks the last day of the Nine Emperor Gods celebrations. The key highlights for this day were elaborated final performances showcased at the temple grounds, final vegetarian feasts prepared by temple’s volunteers, and the final parade at Pulau Punggol Timor to send off the Nine Emperor Gods in the evening.

We arrived at Hougang Dou Mu Gong at approximately 4.15pm to document the temple’s preparations as they get ready for the sending off of the Nine Emperor Gods.

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Both figure 1 and figure 2 show the activities at the temple prior to the  “Sending off ceremony”. Like the previous days, devotees faithfully burn paper offerings to pay their respects to the NEG (fig 1) and the offering table remained crowded with devotees’ offerings (fig 2).

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Figure 3. Devotees eating the vegetarian meals prepared by the temple while being entertained by the ongoing performances. Performances include Chinese musicians, Malay drumming processions, dragon dance performances, stilt walkers and ritual performances by the Eight Generals. (Figure 4,5,6,7,and 8 respectively).image202.pngimage204.pngimage206.pngimage208.pngimage210.pngimage212.jpg

Figure 9. The paper Dragon Boat filled with papers containing devotees’ wishes. This dragon boat is then transported to Pulau Punggol Timor in the evening for the sending off ceremony.image214.jpg

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Figure 10. The Ping an qiao. It is a bridge that would bless and protect devotees against ills after they cross it. Before crossing the bridge, devotees have to be stamp jiu huang da di, (九皇大蒂) in an upright manner and in auspicious red ink at the back of their necks.

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Figure 11. The stamp used to inked 九皇大蒂on devotees back before crossing 平安. However, devotees preferred to have the wordings stamped at the back of their shirts as they believe that the blessings and good fortune will last longer compared to stamping on their bare skin.image218.png

Figure 11. As the time for the auspicious sending off ceremony draws near, temple members began tidying up the offerings table (fig 3)image220.jpg

Figure 12. At around 6.20pm, Aaron tan and other temple members began ushering the devotees to queue for chartered buses to take them to Pulau Punggol Timor for the sending off ceremony. The transportation arrangement remains the same, only male sedan carriers and flag bearers could board the lorries while females and other temple members and public devotees board the chartered buses.image222.jpgimage224.jpg

Figure 13 and 14. Upon reaching the destination, there were vendors selling ice cream and Muah Chee. There was also a Ge tai for performances (organised by Aaron Tan’s company)  and live telecast later.image226.pngimage228.jpg

Figure 15 and 16. Main temple members began setting up the main stage and Kim Zua for the rituals laterimage230.jpg

Figure 17. The paper dragon boat arriving in a lorry. It was dismantled for easy transportation and then later reassembled by the temple members when the dragon boat was unloaded at the pier.

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Figure 18. Temple members reassembling the parts.

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Figure 19. The Guest of Honour: Minsiter Chan Chun Sing (secretary general of the National trades union congress)

image236.pngFigure 20. The celebration kicked off with the arrival of the yellow Porsche with car plate no. 999. (the car used to transport the NEG tablet). –    Followed by the procession of floats and performances

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Figure 21. Arrival of the hua che (floats)

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Figure 22. The Dragon dance performance.

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Figure 23. The Da tou wa wa performance.

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Figure 24. Cultural gods performance.

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Figure 25. Another da tou wa wa performance.

image248.pngFigure 26. Performance of the Monkey God.

image250.pngFigure 28. Guards procession by the eight generals.

image252.pngFigure 28. Guards procession by the eight generals.

image254.pngFigure 29. The main temple members led by the flag bearers

image256.pngFigure 30. Arrival of the head priest.

image258.pngFigure 31. The arrival of the 4 sedan chairs rocking in motion

image261.pngFigure 32. Upon reaching the main altar stage (the NEG’s altar) , these sedan chairs will proceed to charge in the direction of the altar before they become stationary (as a form of paying respect). The barricades were then lifted and temple members were passing joss sticks around the public devotees for those who want to pay their final respects to the NEG.

image262.pngFigure 33. Fireworks display at approx 10.30pm, which signalled the start of the sending off ceremony.

image264.pngFigure 34. A sacred ritual practice where priests and devotees paid their last respects to the Nine Emperor Gods before sending them off. After completing the rituals, temple chairman Mr Tan, assisted by his son, took the lead in holding the urn from the ritual which was still burning hot with incense, to board the boat. The guards stood at attention whilst the official sending off ceremony took place.

image266.pngFigure 35. Safety precautions were adhered to as those members boarding the boat were fitted with life vests.

image268.pngFigure 36. The Dragon Paper Boat brought to the floating wooden platform where it could unloaded and be floated further into the sea to be burnt.

image270.pngFigure 37. Following, the boat, comprising of Mr Tan, his son and other temple members watching the dragon boat being floated away.

image273.pngFigure 38. A group of temple members began burning the paper offerings at the side of the pier.

image275.pngFigure 39. The paper Dragon Boat was burnt to symbolise the act of getting rid of ill fortunes and blessing the donors with good ones. This officially marked the end of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

image276.pngFigure 40. Back at the temple, yellow candles and banners were replaced with red candles and banners and meat was served to devotees to mark the end of the vegetarian diet and the “purification” period.

Text and Photos by Team Hougang 2016 (Jesslyn Kiam, Valarmathi Mahendran, Chong Yoke Ming, Cara Wong,)

Team Leader:  Dean Wang

Our very sincere thanks to the committee of Xuan Wu Shan temple for their support and assistance during our documentation project.

The Project Team (through the Principal Investigator) and the National Heritage Board of Singapore own the rights to the photos and photo essays on this website unless stated otherwise.

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