Tomorrow is the first day of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. In some places like Penang, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, this festival is very popular among the Taoists.
In Ipoh, there is a temple dedicated to Mother Dipper or ‘Duo Mu’ and her nine sons. This old temple called the ‘Tow Boo Keong Temple’ is more than a hundred years old and had gone through several renovations throughout the past century. It stood opposite my former school along the junction of Jalan Kampar and Jalan T…okong. Each year, giant joss sticks with the craftings of dragons were lit up at the entrance of this temple. Stalls selling tortoise buns, flowers, joss sticks and oil could be found at the entrance too. I remember there were Chinese opera shows held and vegetarian meals served throughout the nine days at this temple.
One particular year, my mother bought a dozen tortoise buns and left them on the altar inside the temple. After coming back from placing joss sticks around the temple ground, she found all the buns missing! Someone must have accidentally taken them, so can you imagine how packed the place was. From then on, she would always rope me in to ‘guard’ her buns. It is not an easy job – the smoke that came from the joss sticks inside the temple made me teary. But I love the buns – they were filled with kaya and very soft after steaming. Eating them will bring good luck, mother said.
On the last day of the festival, there is usually a grand procession along the major streets of Ipoh New Town. One of the routes is along Hugh Low Street. Each year, we had a clear view from the windows of our shop. I remember seeing mediums in a trance swaying the sedan chairs with the Nine Emperor Gods inside as they made their way back to the temple. Other mediums could be seen carrying swords and slashing their chests with these swords. Some would have their mouths pierced by a long skewer. Pretty girls holdings baskets of flowers and young men balancing large Chingay flags on long bamboo poles added more variety to the procession.
Mother is no longer around. I do not celebrate this festival. But the memories of her and the festival still lingers in my heart.