九皇大帝 Nine Emperor Gods Festival @ Tow Boh Keong Ipoh, Perak

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Tow Boh Keong, Ipoh, Perak
Tow Boh Keong, Ipoh, Perak

Although the Nine Emperor Gods (Chinese: Jiu Wang Ye. Hokkien: Kau Ong Yah) Festival started on Friday last week (first day of the ninth moon of the Chinese Lunar Calendar), I only managed to go to the temple this morning, the 4th day, to pray. If you are familiar with Taoism, this annual festival lasts for a total of nine days. Being Monday morning, the crowd was sparse, a good thing for me or I wouldn’t be able to take any photo at all. The photos taken inside the temple still looked smokey, though.

frontage of the temple
frontage of the temple

main entrance
main entrance

Tow Boh Keong means “Dou Mu palace”; (Goddess) Dou Mu refers to the mother of Nine Emperor Gods (the Nine Celestial Sovereigns), “Dou Mu Yuan Jun 斗母元君” or Mother North Star.

open air altar
open air altar

Dou Mu who is also known as the Goddess of the North Star and the Bushel Mother is venerated by Taoists and Buddhists. In the Taoist pantheon, she occupies a position similar to that of Kuan Yin the Buddhist bodhisattva. Dou Mu is credited with the attainment of all the heavenly mysteries. Only she alone among the Taoist gods was permitted to pass between the region of the moon and the sun. Dou Mu is the mother of the so-called Nine Celestial Sovereigns.

main altar of the temple
main altar of the temple

In most representations, Dou Mu is seen to possess eighteen arms and three eyes. These symbolize her power to see and accomplish many things. Like the Buddhist bodhisattvas, she is seated on a lotus to denote her enlightened state. Dou Mu is the keeper of the book of life and death, and those seeking longevity often pray to her. Devotees of Dou Mu usually observe vegetarianism on the third and twenty-third days of each month.**

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7 thoughts on “九皇大帝 Nine Emperor Gods Festival @ Tow Boh Keong Ipoh, Perak

  1. two thumbs up for you emily. a nice job done on the festival. i was thinking of writing one but you did a wonderful job.

    i am one ipoh boy but due to work, i can’t make it back to take pictures of the event (very nice photos taken by you).

    i will be going to the one in Ampang this weekend, hopefully i can take some pics and write up my experience here 🙂

  2. Thanks for your encouraging words!! The temple in Ampang is going to be very challenging to blog because there will be too many people and difficult to take photos but I will be looking forward to your post!!

  3. I happen to be in Bangkok last Saturday and realized that they celebrate this days in a very grand scale. All eateries in China town sell only vegetarian food.

    I took one poster written in Thai and Chinese and the name of the Nine Emperor God is written the same as Malaysia too.

    This brought back fond memory of my mother when she was alive. On the approached of lst day of the Nine Lunar month, she kept all the kitchen utensils and took out the one that were not stained by meat. For nine days, all of us had to be vegetarians.

    She did not explain why we must be vegetarian, and told us This God brought rain for 9 days and the rain would stop after that. This really happen and I am still amazed by it. Even now, in Cambodia, It has been raining non stop and I was told by the local, this rain will stop on the 9th day of the Lunar month too.

    If I remember correctly, On the ninth day the believers sent Him back to heaven by doing the fire walking and only those who are sincere can walk the fire without getting any harm.

    Now that I am a Bahaí and my understand is broaden and I believe I understand the meaning of all this better.

  4. Hi Grace,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! I have never been to any Nine Emperor Gods temple outside of Perak and I hope that one day, I can change that! Strangely, it has not been raining too much in Ipoh these past nine days.

    Actually, I just returned from witnessing the fire walking ceremony in Tow Boh Keong and hope to be able to find time to blog about it.

  5. Whenever i go home to Ipoh i make it a must to visit Tow Boh Keong. I always have an affinity to the temple. But I know very little. Thanks for posting.

  6. This festival has relevance to other ancient traditions such as the Aztecs, ancient Norse, Etruscans and Greeks, all of them had 9 Gods concept that governs and oversees the universe.

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