A Joyous Welcome and Send off Celebration at the Nine Emperor Gods Festival
When it happens: September 1 to 9
Where it happens: Singapore,Malaysia, Thailand,some parts of China.
History: The Nine Emperor Gods refer to the nine sons of Emperor Father Xhou Yu Dou Fu Yuan Jun and Big Dipper Mother Dou Mu Yuan Jun, holder of the Registrar of Life and Death. The worship of the Emperor Father has declined as a proper teaching in Taoism. However, the worship of Big Dipper Mother is greatly honoured for it is believed that she brings longevity, safety, and sins absolvent of oneself and family.
Popular folklore tells that the Nine Emperor Gods are actually pirates of the sea during the Ming Dynasty. However, the Nine Emperor Gods are believed to be high-ranking star lords by the Taoist priests. According to them, the star lords control the movement of the planets and manage the life and death issues of the mortals.
About the Festival: The Nine Emperor Gods Festival (九皇爺) is a nine-day celebration starting in the on the 1st eve of the 9th lunar month. It is primarily observed in Southeast Asia. It is celebrated by holding a ceremony to welcome and pray to the nine emperors at the temples of the deities. Processions are also held from the temples up to the river or sea shore to symbolize the arrival of the gods. You can see that the devotees are usually dressed in white and they carry candles and incense as they wait for the arrival of their majesties. During this time, you can feel a carnival-like atmosphere at the temple. There is also a constant tinkling of the bells for prayers and chants by the temple priests. Most devotees often stay at the temple and eat vegetarian meals. They also recite their prayers continuously. They also believe that there will be rain all throughout the days of the celebration.
The ninth of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is considered as the climax. There is a procession that attracts a number of devotees to send the nine emperor gods home. The nine emperor gods are called on sedan chairs and is often accompanied by dragon and lion dance. Many devotees perform the final prayers and go together to the beach along with the dragon boat made of paper. Lastly, the dragon boat will be lighted and sent off to symbolize the driving away of misfortune and bad luck.
Travel tips: Since Singapore has a tropical weather, it is preferred to bring light summer clothing, especially for outdoor activities. Although some require formal clothing, you can simply put on your comfortable clothes during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. The country has also a strict law against littering. Thus, you cannot just chew and spit out gum. It is also a common courtesy to ask permission to take pictures.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is the perfect time to celebrate social harmony of many religious sects. You can witness people of all walks of life work together to ensure the event’s success. If you are not a devotee, you are allowed to watch the real ritual and experience the long tradition.