Friday, February 3, 2012

Jade Emperor's birthday celebrated with pomp (5 PICS)

Devotees lighting lotus candles
The Hokkien community pay homage with a multitude of offerings

THE Chinese New Year holidays might be over, but the celebrations still  continue as thousands of people observe  Thnee Kong Seh (Jade Emperor's Birthday) last Monday  night at the Chew Jetty in Pengkalan Weld here.

The celebration, which kicked off on the night of the eighth day of the lunar new year, was no longer a religious affair for the Hokkien community.

In Penang, it has grown into a cultural event which draws crowds of tourists to the clan jetties here.

This year, the event drew an even larger crowd of locals and tourists compared with previous years.

As usual, visitors were fascinated by the many offerings presented to the Jade Emperor that  were laid out on a 20-metre long table  by the road.

Among the offerings were huge thnee kong poh (folded gold-coloured paper in pineapple shapes), mee koo (red buns), ang koo (red glutinous rice cakes), huat kueh (pink steamed rice cakes), bi koh (sweet glutinous rice), ngo siew th'ng (pink pagoda-shaped candy), roast pigs and fruits.

The goodies were offerings from 80 families to show gratitude to the Jade Emperor for his blessings.

In conjunction with the Dragon Year, giant dragon joss sticks were also placed next to the deity's grand alter.

As they were a rare sight, many visitors gathered in front of them to take photographs.

In conjunction with the Dragon Year, many giant dragon joss sticks were burnt on the Jade Emperor’s birthday at the Chew Jetty in George Town last Monday night. Pics by Asman Ibrahim and Michael Ong
There were also cultural shows, songs, video presentations of Chew Jetty's history and a dragon dance, among others, on the grand "Dragon Gate" stage.

The performances were to entertain visitors and devotees at the jetty as they waited for the prayers to start at midnight.

The open area at the jetty was also nicely adorned with Chinese New Year decorations.

Clan Jetty Village Development and Security Committee chairman Chew Chong Chin said the celebration this year was a little different from previous years  with the setting up of the grand stage.

He thanked the state government for its support, the people who had worked hard to prepare for the event, and the visitors, who came despite the event being held late at night, for making the event a success.

"Thnee Kong Seh is the biggest event for the clan jetty.

"It also shows how the overseas Hokkien people remain true to their roots  by keeping old traditions started by their ancestors in China alive until today," he said in his speech.

A grand dragon dance being performed.
The Thnee Kong Seh celebration, which falls on the ninth day of Chinese New Year, marks the birthday of Thnee Kong or Jade Emperor.

The deity is  considered to be the supreme ruler of heaven and creator of the universe, according to Chinese folk beliefs.

The celebration is regarded as the Hokkien New Year to commemorate the deliverance of the Hokkien people from the persecution of a cruel general in China during the Sung Dynasty.

According to legend, the Hokkiens in Fujian had hid in a sugarcane plantation for nine days during the Lunar New Year and managed to escape the general's army unharmed.

Since then, the Hokkiens observe Thnee Kong Seh to give thanks to the Jade Emperor.

The celebration, considered one of the largest festivals of the Hokkien people, has continued through the ages.

In today's modern society, many Hokkien businessmen would close their shops for the Lunar New Year until the Thnee Kong Seh celebration is over.

At midnight, the surrounding business community also held their own celebrations at their homes and shops.

Makeshift altars with trays of offerings, heaps of gold-coloured joss paper and paraphernalia were placed at the entrances of their shops to pay homage to the much-revered deity.

The many offerings presented to the Jade Emperor that where laid out on a 20-metre long table by the road. Among the offerings were huge ‘thnee kong poh' (folded gold-coloured paper in pineapple shapes), ‘mee koo’ (red buns), ‘ang koo’ (red glutinous rice cakes), ‘huat kueh’ (pink steamed rice cakes), ‘bi koh’ (sweet glutinous rice), ‘ngo siew th'ng’ (pink pagoda-shaped candy), roast pigs and fruits.
As the rituals concluded and the heaps of joss paper or spirit money were burnt to thank and honour the Jade Emperor, the devotees renewed their requests for good fortune and good health for the new year.

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