The Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Penang

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Penang has many festivals – some of which are under the radar of expats. But, if you can get to see the less well-known ones, the effort is really repaid as you feel part of genuine community celebration. Accompanied by Ronni Pinsler, who studies Taoism in Malaysia, Frances Wilks dropped in on the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Noordin Street in George Town. The street is not in the heritage zone and so is potentially under threat from development. It is certainly worth a visit as you can still see many aspects of traditional Chinese lifestyle there.

According to Taoist traditions, the Nine Emperor Gods are the nine sons of Emperor Zhou Yu and on the eve of the ninth moon, temples of the deities hold a ceremony to invoke and welcome the spirits nine emperors. It is believed that they arrive through the waterways, so processions are held from temples to the sea-shore or river.

Throughout the festival worshippers dress in white which has connotations of death in Chinese culture. This perhaps symbolises a potential spiritual rebirth at the end of the festival. The devout eat only vegetarian food during the nine days.

Source: Penang International December 2013/January 2014

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