Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The many feats of Poh Seng Tai Tay (保生大帝)

There is no shortage of stories about the legendary feats of Poh Seng Tai Tay (Tai Tay Eah) (保生大帝), the resident deity of the Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi. You should pick up a copy of the bilingual booklet, Biography of Bao Sheng Da Di (Deity of Healing), published by the Cheng Leong Keong temple (Tai Tay Eah Ahm) in Jelutong, Penang. Here are three stories from the booklet:

Controlling the flood at Bai Jiao Xiang On one occasion, Bai Jiao Xiang (which was Tai Tay's home village in Tong Aun District, Quan Zhou Prefecture, Hock Kian Province in China) was badly flooded. The water current was alarmingly strong and swift, and houses were on the verge of being swept away. At this crucial moment, Tai Tay was seen appearing on a white crane in the sky, exercising his divine power to control the flood. In a short while, the flood water began to subside. The entire village was eventually saved without suffering much damage. As a token of appreciation, the people built a shrine to house his image and apotheosised him.
Helping Emperor Song Gaozong to escape from captivity (The legend known as Ni Ma Tu Kang Wang (泥馬渡康王)) During the time when Emperor Gaozong (高宗) of Song was still a prince, the Jin (金) (a barbaric tribe north of China) invaded the country. The Song defenders failed to stop the invading enemies from advancing. The Song called for a truce and surrendered the prince to the Jin as a hostage and the prince was subsequently kept in captivity in a Jin prison. One night several years later, the prince found an opportunity to escape under the cover of darkness. He ran as fast as he could to make his way home until he reached the Cuizi Temple (崔子廟). However, he still could not find a horse to ride. There, amidst his anxiety and fear, he suddenly heard a horse neighing nearby. He found the horse and rode off quick. As he reached a river side his captors were catching up fast with him. Feeling very worried and helpless, he prayed very hard for assistance. Almost immediately, there appeared in the sky an army of heavenly soldiers carrying the bearing with Tai Tay's name. The heavenly army quickly came and routed the enemy. The prince was quick to take this opportunity and hurriedly crossed the river and returned safely to the Middle Kingdom. Some time later, the prince ascended to the throne and he discovered that it was Tai Tay who had aided him at that critical moment. To show his gratitude, he issued a royal decree to build a temple named after Tai Tay in Bai Jiao Xiang and to hold regular rituals and praying sessions every year at the temple. This was the oldest temple for Tai Tay in Bai Jiao Xiang, known as Ci Ji Ling Gong (慈濟靈宮). Tai Tay was conferred the title of Da Tao Zhen Ren (大道真人). and was thus also known as Da Tao Gong (大道公).
Assisting Emperor Ming Taizu in battle During the period between the end of the Yuan Dynasty and the beginning of the Ming Dynasty in China, Zhu Yuan Zhang (朱元璋) (who later became Emperor Ming Taizu) was in battle against a warlord named Chen You-liang (陳友諒) at Lake Poyang. During the confrontation, a tempestuous storm suddenly developed and raged through the lake. The battleships of Zu and his army were badly hit by the storm and Zu was faced with an imminent defeat. At that very moment, Tai Tay appeared with layers and layers of banners waving in the sky, which changed the direction of the raging storm and saved Zu from the brink of defeat. Zu was finally able to beat the enemies and win the battle. Later, Zu successfully founded the Ming Dynasty and ascended to the throne in Nanking, declaring himself as Emperor Ming Taizu. In 1371, the Emperor conferred upon Tai Tay the title of Wu Tian Yu Shi Yi Ling Zhen Cun (吳天御史醫靈真君), meaning Great Royal Officer and Master of Healing.
As the third and final extract from this booklet is rather long, I shall reproduce it in a later post.

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