Nine Emperor Gods Festival Procession In Jinjang – Part 6

For a moment, I thought it was my friend Emily Lowe. The Ipoh journalist and Ipoh-centric blogger is also the webmaster of the Nine Empeor Gods’ Kew Ong Tai Tay Temple in Ipoh.

Jeez! What are the requirements for a webmaster these days? As it turned out, it wasn’t Emily for she is fearful of a pin prick.

Funny thing is that I was playing with her metal spike laid out on a table earlier. Surprised they didn’t do any form of sterilization except to pour liberal doses of cold water when the spikes, knives and spears are inserted into the cheek. Anybody knows why cold water is used, except maybe to numb the skin?

The original Ampang Temple is like a modern day Mega Church. Apart from donations and other forms of temple tax, everything from parking to hawker space is monetized.

I have been writing about this unusual mix of religion and commerce for years. Their mega success in becoming a mega cash cow inspired many similarly-themed temples in many other towns and areas.

Think of the original temple as the popular Line Clear and Nasi Vanggey nasi kandar restauants. They spawned many unofficial and unsanctioned outlets elsewhere, all hoping to cash in.

It is not an easy act to follow though. The Ampang temple plough back some of their revenue into charitable acts such as a public kidney dialysis centre, old folk homes and donations to schools.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 2500, f4, 1/80 sec.

Nine Emperor Gods Festival Procession In Jinjang – Part 2

The problem with educating kids is that no college or university graduate wants to make a career out of some horrific bondage practice that makes one become like a slab of meat hooked and hung in a cold room.

Mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with spears is now practised mainly in Thailand Phuket’s Chinese community celebration of the festival. The bizarre ritual attracts a large number of tourists.

It is no gentle hipster piercings such as those on lip, tongue, nose, nipple, navel and genitals. So what do the temple in Jinjang do to keep the practice and tradition alive?

They import a bunch of male and female expatriate mediums or trance specialists from Thailand. They are pierced in front of the public (including children), who strangely applaud each successful painful piercing with shouts of “Huat” (or prosper). Prosperity is a Hokkien thing.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1000, f4, 1/50 sec.

Portrait Of The Chief

I don’t know who this man is but he seemed to be the chief among the mediums at the Jinjang Temple. He can speak Thai and Hokkien. He reminded the RELA and temple security personnel that photographers must be given close access.

For that, I reward him with an intimate portrait which I hope to present him later as a print. He is probably a former ‘taikor’ (chieftain of the gangs).

I know some of you feel squeamish about the violent but voluntary rituals. Conversion to black and white hides the blood.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 2500, f4, 1/80 sec.

Nine Emperor Gods Festival Procession In Jinjang – Part 4

It is currently almost unknown and under-promoted. I asked the cycling man about the significance of pedaling the tricycle. He told me has no idea. Lol.

Besides talking to strangers, I spent most of my time adjusting the flash strength as the white attire worn by devotees can over-expose or burn out easily.

One thing I learned is that the standard zoom (24 to 70mm) lens and tiny HVL-F20M flash were sufficient for the parade. Felt like jettisoning the redundant heavy prime lenses and powerful HVL-F60M flash I brought along but my car was too far away.

Always travel light when you don’t know how far you will be walking.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1250, f4, 1/80 sec.