GEORGE TOWN: Their names may sound odd to non-Hokkien speakers but they are hot in demand for the Jade Emperor’s (Thnee Kong) birthday.
Thnee kong kim (pineapple-shaped gold for the God of Heaven), ngor siew th’ng (pink pagoda-shaped candy) and thnee kong poh (offerings folded in “gold” paper), besides items such as sugarcane, bit chien (skewered sweets) and bee koe (sweet glutinous rice), are selling like hot cakes at markets here.
The items are prerequisites for devotees, especially those from the Hokkien community, as they prepare to celebrate the Thnee Kong’s birthday tomorrow, the ninth day of the Lunar New Year.
According to folklore, Hokkien ancestors from Fujian province survived prosecution from Sung Dynasty soldiers by hiding in a sugarcane plantation on Chinese New Year Day for nine days.
Emerging unharmed, they believed they had been protected by the deity, so they offered sugarcane to the Jade Emperor God.
Today, thousands of devotees are expected to throng Thnee Kong Tnua (Jade Emperor God Temple) at the foot of Penang Hill and Chew Jetty in Weld Quay.
At the stroke of midnight, many Hokkien households will set up communal altars in front of their homes to pay homage to the deity.
Marketgoers were seen thronging stalls selling food offerings and prayer paraphernalia at the Lebuh Cecil market, Jalan Pasar and Chowrasta market.
Trader Ch’ng Chai Seah, 38, said he prepared 5,000 stalks of sugarcanes at his stall near Jalan Pasar off Jalan Perak.
“Business is really good. I have sold some 2,000 stalks since I opened my stall at 4.30am,” he said yesterday.
Lim Ewe Lay, 48, who sells food offerings for the celebration in Jalan Pasar, said devotees preferred to shop early for the celebration.
“Devotees will shop for prayer items such as ngor siew th’ng, bit chien, bee koe and thnee kong kim.
“They also buy thnee kong poh,” she said.
Another sugarcane seller at the Lebuh Cecil market, Khoo Ge Kong, 58, said he sold 1,200 stalks last year.
“This year, I prepared 2,000 stalks and I am positive they will be sold out,” he said.
Housewife Jade Ong, 45, said that although the price of sugarcanes had increased slightly this year, devotees had to buy them because sugarcanes are required as prayer offerings.
Home of the rising steamed cakes