A vibrant finale to celebration


Devotees joining the celebration on the final day of the nine-day Nine Emperor Gods Festival. (Left pic) A fireworks display to cap the night. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

TOURIST Sally Finnigan’s eyes lit up as she took in the sight of a beautifully decorated float that was parked along Cheong Fatt Tze Road (formerly known as Hong Kong Street) in Penang.

The 23-year-old backpacker from Bath, Britain, just arrived with several friends in the state and found herself mesmerised by the uniqueness of what she later learnt was the Nine Emperor Gods or the Kew Ong Yeah Festival.

“This is something different for all of us to see and experience.

“Back at home in the UK, even in Chinatown, we don’t get to see this level of culture and traditions being celebrated and displayed.

A fireworks display during the farewell ceremony to send off the deities at the end of the nine-day Kew Ong Yeah (Nine Emperor Gods) festival at the Hong Kong Street Tow Boh Keong Temple in Cheong Fatt Tze Road (formerly known as Hong Kong Street), Penang. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star
A fireworks display to cap the night. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

“This is my first time to Penang and I’m very glad to experience this unique festival,” she said when met during the celebration on Saturday.

Finnigan said she and her friend Sam Frost, 23, also from the UK, were in Cameron Highlands for three days before arriving in Penang on Saturday.

She added that in Cameron Highlands, they met German tourists Katharine Grosskopf, 29, Christian Ghossain, 30, and Angelique Koehler, 31.

Devotees taking part in the farewell ceremony to send off the deities at the end of the nine-day Kew Ong Yeah (Nine Emperor Gods) festival at the Hong Kong Street Tow Boh Keong Temple in Cheong Fatt Tze Road (formerly known as Hong Kong Street), Penang.StarPic by :LIM BENG TATT/THE STAR/ 28 Oct 2017.
Devotees carrying the ceremonial boat before it is set adrift at sea.

“We came to Penang together and stumbled upon this festival.

“We are looking forward to trying out the local food as well,” she quipped.

Finnigan, Frost, Grosskopf, Ghossain and Koehler were among the many tourists who watched the float procession.

Thousands of Taoist devotees bid farewell to the deities at the end of the nine-day festival at the Hong Kong Street Tow Boh Keong Temple in Cheong Fatt Tze Road.

Streams of devotees, mostly clad in white and holding joss sticks in their hands, lined the streets to pay homage as the beautifully decorated floats passed by.

(From left) Finnigan, Grosskopf, Koehler, Ghossain and Frost admiring one of the floats at the Hong Kong Street Tow Boh Keong Temple in Cheong Fatt Tze Road, Penang. (Left pic) Devotees carrying the ceremonial boat before it is set adrift at sea.
(From left) Finnigan, Grosskopf, Koehler, Ghossain and Frost admiring one of the floats at the Hong Kong Street Tow Boh Keong Temple in Cheong Fatt Tze Road, Penang.

There was also a vibrant atmosphere as loud sounds of drums filled the air.

The festival started on Oct 20, which was the first day of the ninth lunar month.

The event is dedicated to the nine sons of Tou Mu, the Goddess of the North Star, who is believed to control the Books of Life and Death.

Her sons, deified as ren huang (human sovereigns), are said to have the ability to cure illnesses and bless devotees with luck, wealth and longevity.

Devotees believe the gods came through the waterway and processions are usually held from temples to the river or seashore as a symbolic gesture.

The festival is usually celebrated on the first nine days of the month where devotees will observe a strict vegetarian diet and refrain from vice activities until the festival is over.

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