Archive for September, 2016

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 Tokong. 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.


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In the city of Hangzhou lived a wealthy businessman and his beautiful young daughter Little Jade in a large mansion surrounded by servants and a lovely garden. Since there was no electricity at that time, most households used oil lamps to light up their places. For this reason, peddling oil was a lucrative business then. Uncle Lim and his son, a handsome young man, used to go around selling oil from large earthen jars held onto their backs.

One day, father and son came to Little Jade’s mansion to sell their ware. Out of boredom, Little Jade decided to follow her servant to the gate to watch the transaction. When the beautiful girl and the young man set their eyes on each other, they fell in love at first sight. From then on, Little Jade would always follow her servant out to the gate whenever the father and son come to her mansion to sell their oil.

This went on for months until one day, the old oil peddler fell sick and his young son went on the rounds by himself. When he reached Little Jade’s home, her father happened to be away on a business trip. Realizing this was the only chance for them to chat up each other, they decided to sneak out and headed straight to a beautiful park outside the city. Once there, they chatted merrily and in no time, were madly in love with each other.

When Little Jade’s father came home, one of his loyal servants told him what his daughter had been up to. Furious that his daughter would associate herself with a young man from a poor background, he ordered her to be locked up in her chamber. Little Jade cried and begged to be let out but no one dare to. But one day, when her father went on another business trip, she managed to bribe her maid to let her out and before long, she met up with the young oil peddler and once again, they ran to the isolated park. Little Jade did not come home again. Neither did the young oil peddler. When her father came back and was told of his missing daughter, he sent his servants out to look for her and days later, they found a young couple hanging from a tree. They held their hands together in death. Their bodies were taken down and quietly buried as instructed by Little Jade’s father to avoid gossips and embarrassment to him.

Years later, a clog maker came to chop down some trees to make wooden clogs. The tree from which Little Jade and her young lover hung themselves was one of those trees being chopped down and turned into clogs. Not long after this, news began to spread that some wooden clogs brought from this clog maker could move on around the house on their own and could even speak! Those who brought the haunted clogs came and returned these clogs to their maker and demanded a refund. Puzzled, the clog maker asked the returned clogs who they were. Out came the grievous voices of Little Jade and the young oil peddler, “Our souls were trapped inside the tree from which we hung ourselves and which you have chopped down to make those clogs. Please burn the clogs so that we could be released,” they begged him.

On hearing this, the clog maker then burnt the whole batch of clogs made from the trees he had collected from the park that day. In doing so, he helped to release the poor lovers’ soul and set them free…..

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