Nine Emperor Gods
The first 9 days of the 9th lunar month is the Nine Emperor Festival and the most visible signs of this festival are devotees dressed in white with a yellow cloth tied around their waist. Click here for this year's celebration dates.
Origins of the Nine Emperor Gods
The Nine Emperors are generally thought to be 9 stars around the Big dipper and children of female deity, Dou Mu, 斗母. Seven of the stars are visible while two are invisible stars and they are known as:
Tan Lang Tai Xing Jun, 貪狼太星君
Myths of the Nine Emperor Gods
Over time, new versions of Nine Emperors emerge associating them with new identities and the origins.
They were said to be 9 emperors of ancient China, 9 martyrs of the Qin dynasty, underground Ming loyalist leaders and even Zheng Cheng Gong, Koxinga, the famous Ming loyalist who captured Taiwan from the Dutch.
Nine Emperor’s association with the Ming loyalists is said to be due to the sculpture of Dou Mu, mother of the Nine Emperors. She is seen with arms stretched and holding on to a sun and moon.
When the Duo Mu sculpture is seen against a mirror, the Chinese character of the sun, 日, and moon, 月, form to become the character, bright or Ming, 明, the same character as the Ming dynasty, 明朝.
The Nine Emperor celebrations has since acquired associations with the movement to restore the Ming dynasty.
Worship of Nine Emperor Gods
The Nine Emperor Festival last for 9 days and devotees turn vegetarian during this period to achieve ritual cleansing. Devotees, including non Chinese ones, pray for blessings and to get rid of misfortunes and bad luck.
The festival starts on the last day of the 8th lunar month with invitation of the Nine Emperors to the temple. The deities are welcomed at bodies of water rivers banks and at the welcome ceremony, there are urns representing the nine emperors.
At the river bank or beach, the Taoist Priest began with a series of chants and nine sedan chairs are prepared to receive the spirits of the Nine Emperors.
The deities’ arrival is signaled by the sudden flaming of the urns that will be brought into the sedan chairs and welcome into the temple. In some temples, 9 spirit mediums allow the deities to descend into them.
Prayers and rituals are performed daily until the 9th day where another highlight of the celebration occurs; the sending off of Nine Emperors.
Many devotees turn up for the final prayer and journey together to the beach or waterway for the final prayers. Along this entourage is a dragon boat made of paper that will be alighted and set adrift symbolizing the sending away of bad luck and misfortune.
The Nine Emperor Festival is a perfect time to witness social solidarity as a result of religious affiliation. Every year, hundreds and even thousands of devotees, young and old, even non Chinese work together to ensure success of the event. See Nine Emperor Gods and Frenchman Gilles.
Even if you are not a devotee, you are welcome to witness the event. In fact, in Taiwan, Phuket (Vegetarian Festival) and Penang, the Nine Emperor Celebration is a major event in the tourist calendar allowing visitors to watch an authentic ritual with a long tradition.