Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Folk beliefs in George Town

My weekends are normally very busy and I hardly have time to update my writings on this blog and elsewhere. For example, my wife and I spent much of the past weekend attending four feng shui workshops in Penang that dealt with face reading, Qi Men Dun Jia, Bazi and house feng shui. But I have to stress that I am no expert at all. I just have a passing interest in the general aspects of the Chinese art of geomancy, trying my best to implement recommendations as much as I can.

(A full house at the Han Jiang Association next to the Han Jiang ancestral temple as we waited for the English language talk to start.)

Between the workshops, we were at the George Town world heritage celebrations which kicked off on Sunday. The past Sunday morning found us parking our car in Beach Street at seven o'clock and walking to the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple in Chulia Street. The place was already bustling with people registering themselves for the 50-minute Folk Beliefs talk by Lim Gaik Siang, treasurer of the Penang Heritage Trust. The talk was followed by a two-hour walking guided tour around the city.

We found the talk to be very uplifting. It corrected some of the wrong beliefs that had been told to us since young, and reinforced some of the other beliefs that we had learnt as small kids and even as adults. For instance, who would have known that we could have been praying to the wrong deity when we open our main doors every morning and calling on the Thne Kong (天公) instead of the Thne Knua (天官). There's a subtle difference in the two, said Gaik Siang, and it can be confirmed simply by looking at the deity's tablet outside the house.

For the walking tour, we were taken to popular places like the Yap Temple (南阳堂叶氏宗祠) in Armenian Street, the Kong Hock Keong (Kuan Yin Temple) (廣福宮) in Pitt Street, the Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple (அருள்மிகு ஸ்ரீ மகா மாரியம்மன் கோவில்) in Queen Street (although we did not go inside as it was undergoing renovation) and of course, the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple (韩江家庙) itself.

Lesser known attractions like the Nin Yong Temple (武帝廟) and the Cantonese Thai Pak Koong Temple (大伯公街福德祠) both in King Street, the Ju Xian Temple (聚仙堂) which is a small Taoist temple in Queen Street and a small Datok Kong shrine in a backlane opposite the Lee Sih Chong Soo building in another area of King Street were also covered. Oh yes, we also visited the relatively new Teochew Puppet and Opera Museum in Armenian Street.

All in, despite the heat, it was a pretty interesting morning. Many thanks to Gaik Siang for organising the talk in conjunction with the Penang Heritage Day and also to our guides, Peter and Lena, for sharing their knowledge with everyone in the group.

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