Gilles and the Nine Emperor gods
The Nine Emperor Gods celebration is a major event in the Taoist calendar especially to temples devoted to the Nine Emperor gods. Devotees who participate in the rituals abstain from meat and ritually cleanse themselves for a period before the event.
This is a challenging undertaking requiring changes in daily routines especially for those who need adjustment to the vegetarian diet.
The preparations while challenging is also an opportunity for the devotee to explore his own faith and spiritual development.
Gilles and the Nine Emperor God
Every year in Singapore, hundreds if not thousands of faithful devotees prepare themselves for the celebration and these devotees sometimes also includes non-Chinese such as Gilles Massot, 马梭吉, a French professional in Singapore.
Since relocating to Singapore in 1981, Gilles has been exploring the culture and spiritual dimensions of South East Asia learning from teachers in different places.
Although he has always an interest in Chinese religion, it was much later that he had a chance to embark on further research.
In 2006, Gilles chanced upon Nine Emperor God’s celebration and was fascinated by it. The following year (2007), he followed the entourage on his motorbike. In 2008, he was invited by the members to follow them and to document the rituals with his camera.
Inspiration and creation
These series of interactions unlocked his creative mind resulting in a 2009 photo installation “The Space Within the Space Within the Space” commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). This installation has since been featured in Singapore and Korea.
This was, in fact, just the beginning for Gilles began participating in the Nine Emperor Gods celebration as a member of Leong Nam Temple since 2009. He turned vegetarian, went through the cleansing process and join fellow devotees to welcome and send off the Nine Emperor gods during the festival.
By the 2nd year of participation, Gilles gained more insight into the worship of Nine Emperor Gods and will be participating again in 2011.
A short initial encounter has already inspired Gilles to produce a successful art installation. Now after two years and nearing his third year of participation, we wish Gilles success in another round of creative breakthrough.