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Festivals of Malaysia ~ Nine Emperor Gods Festival


Nine Emperor Gods Festival

Taoism is the ancient indigenous religion of China, its ideas first propagated and written down by Shang Dynasty philosopher, Laozhi, 2500 years ago. Taoism gave the world concepts of ying and yang, and Taoists believe in the importance of harmony between people, and between human and nature. In addition to the philosophy of life and death as well as morality and nature, an extensive

pantheon of gods and demigods exists in Taoism.

The Sect of the Jiu Wang Yeh is dedicated to the nine sons of Tien Hou or Queen of Heaven (also known as Tou Mu, the Goddess of the North Star), believed to be in control of the Books of Life and Death. Her nine sons, known as the Nine Emperor Gods, are worshipped as patrons of prosperity, wealth and good health on their own right, especially in Fujian and Guangdong Provinces in southern China, a region also known for its ancient sacred rites of spirit mediumship.

With the emigration of the Fujian (or Hokkien) and Guangdong (also known as Cantonese) peoples to Southeast Asia including Malaysia during the last three hundred years, they brought with them their rich culture and festivals into the mix.

Worshippers of Jiu
Hwang Yeh Sect believe that the Nine Emperor Gods visit the worshippers every year on this day for nine days, and during the duration of the

visit, the Gods have to be entertained with traditional opera and dances. It is

also an occasion to declare one’s religious devotion and piety so that wishes

and favours would be granted for the coming year.

These Nine Deities are believed to dwell in the stars in northern heaven under the reign of ‘Thien Hou’ - the Queen of Heaven. They are believed to preside over blessings, life and death, peace and harmony on Earth. Thus the focus of rituals during the nine-day festival acts as a channel between celestial and terrestrial beings for the salvation and protection of mankind.


The festival is celebrated over the first nine days of the ninth moon in the Chinese lunar calendar. Devotees flock to the temples throughout the country for this religious festival. On the eve of the ninth moon, temples of the Deities hold a ceremony to invoke and welcome the ‘Jien Hwang Yeh’. Since the arrival of the

Nine Emperor Gods is believed to be through the waterways, processions are held from temples to the sea-shore or river to symbolise this belief.

Devotees dressed in traditional white, carrying joss-sticks and candles, await the arrival of their “Excellencies”.


A carnival-like atmosphere pervades the temple throughout the nine-day festival. During this period of time, the constant chiming of a prayer bell and chants from the temple priests are heard. Most devotees stay at the temple, take vegetarian meals and recite continuous chanting of prayers. A procession to send the Nine Emperor Gods home then takes place to complete the rites of this religious festival.


  Look for lots of joss-sticks to be burnt, prayers chanted and an abundance

of 'ang khoo' (red buns in the shape of turtles), as Buddhists and Taoists commemorate the Nine Emperor Gods. 


To welcome the Nine Emperors, mediums wielding axes and swords will perform evening rituals on odd numbered days. The spirits of the gods are entertained in the temple grounds with Chinese opera performances and fire-walking sessions. 


The Nine Emperors are the Chinese version of Robin Hood, who during the Qing dynasty robbed the rich and gave to the poor. According to legend, they were cornered at a seaside by soldiers, but a giant red turtle came to their rescue and ferried them to safety on Tow Boo Keong island.



Devotees throng to the Tow Boo Keong Temple in Ipoh, one of the oldest temples

in Malaysia, and Temples of the Star Deities like the Nan Thien Kwang in

Ampang, in Kuala Lumpur.





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