DEVOTEES in Penang and Kuala Terengganu spared no effort to honour the king of heaven on his birthday, which falls on the ninth day of Chinese New Year.
Devotees in Kampung Cross Street, Bukit Mertajam, built a 10.26m- high altar and earned a place in the Malaysia Book of Records (MBOR) for holding the highest lion dance in the country on Friday night.
Four fearless ‘lions’ and a ‘dragon’ leapt and pranced their way up to the altar along a broad staircase made by lashing red tables together.
The ornate altar, piled with offerings for Jade Emperor, sat atop scaffolding and was freshly painted in red.
Many devotees also climbed up to the three-storey altar to offer prayers.
“We tried discouraging devotees from climbing, especially the elderly and children.
“However, many could not resist the chance to pray at the altar,” said Persatuan Tarian Singa Jong Hwa Seberang Prai advisor K.C. Ooi.
The tradition began in 1989 with a 1.83m altar and Ooi said the association keeps making the altar higher every year.
MBOR chief operating officer Christopher Wong presented the certificate for the highest lion dance to association coach Foong Chia Chun and founder Foong Hiam Kong, witnessed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and event organising chairman Yeoh Chai Kooi.
Instead of height, devotees at Chew Jetty in Weld Quay on Penang island went for length with a 36.5m-long altar.
All devotees were welcomed to lay their offerings there.
Devotees and visitors were also awed by Chinese cultural performances, a juggler from Venezuela and a breathtaking lion dance on stilts.
In Kuala Terengganu, the city’s Hokkien community celebrated the deity’s birthday with much jubilation.
People flocked to Ho Ann Kiong Temple in Kampung Cina as early as 8.30pm to pray.
The over 200-year-old temple’s pillars were decked with sugarcane.
This plant is significant to Hokkiens worldwide as a symbol of their salvation from persecution in ancient China.
Aside from the customary roasted pigs and other offerings, Kuala Terengganu folk also offered a whole roasted goat.
This is not a common sight on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia but a welcome religious offering in Terengganu and even in Thailand and Vietnam.