Thursday, 4 March 2010

The deity's return

Two days ago, I wrote about the Tua Pek Kong prediction for Penang's economy in the next 12 months. Tua Pek Kong is, of course, the God Of Prosperity, a local deity in Penang that is much revered by the Chinese business community. The main Tua Pek Kong temple in Penang is the Poh Hock Seah in Armenian Street, George Town and I discovered on Sunday that the Poh Hock Seah is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year.

The entrance to this Poh Hock Seah is through a small but brightly decorated alleyway from Armenian Street.

The above is a painting, not a photograph. I found it in this very coffee shop at the junction of Armenian Street and Cannon Street. Beside it is the entrance to the Poh Hock Seah. Anyway, the alley opens out into a big compound with the temple at one end and a stage at the other end. The temple is a double-storey building with most of the activities centred on the ground floor. The upper floor is less visited but it houses some of the most ornate Chinese-style decorations in Penang.

I did not plan to be at the Poh Hock Seah on Sunday. It was all truly by chance that I found myself there. Maybe there was an inner voice that asked me to go there, but I don't know. Anyway, I found myself at the coffee shop when all of a sudden, the sounds of clashing cymbals and burning firecrackers filled the air. Yes, Tua Pek Kong was returning to his residence at the Poh Hock Seah.

You see, he had been away the day before. The deity had been invited to the Hai Choo Soo Temple in Tanjung Tokong for the Chniah Hoay ceremony and now, he was being brought back. It was just a simple ceremony with only a handful of people, including a Taoist priest leading the way. After the firecrackers stopped, there was a short and simple parade around the junction and everybody went back through the alleyway. That's that. Hardly two or three minutes. Blink, and you might just miss the occasion.

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