Friday, March 20, 2009

Pray "Tian Gong" (拜天公) - The Hokkien's Vegetarian Style

The ninth day of the Lunar New Year is the birthday of the Jade Emperor ( called "Tien Gong" in hokkien). It used to be one of the most important events for the Hokkien community but turns quieter as the younger generation like us didn't bother much. We simple just follows our parent traditions when comes to this important event.

My mum used to pray the tian gong (in mandarin) in non-vegeterian style. However, after my grand mother passed away, she converted her tian gong" offering into vegeterian style. I am writing this to remind myself of the precedure to carry out offering for 'tian gong'.

The evening before the prayers at midnight, I will help my mum setting up the tables where the offerings will be placed. The table will be placed at the main entrance of our house with the sugar cane stalks tied to each side of the table leg. Followed by the brass joss sticks holders with a red ribbon tie onto it (Xiang Lu in mandarin) placing at the centre of the table and two brass candle holders consist of big red candles are bring placed at the side of the table. All of the brass holders had been polished for the Chinese New Year and this night. Then 3 cups of chinese tea and a bowl containing some red dates will be placed in fronting of the joss sticks holders.

The food offering include 5 types of fruits placed in a plate such as apples, oranges, banana, grapes & pears, as well as 12 types of vegetarian items all placed in a small bowl such as mushroom, fungus, vermicelli, tou kee, spinach, ang ku kueh, rice crackers, green bean cake, peanuts crackers etc. Others include mee suan, huat kueh, tien kuah (nian gao in mandarin), pink peach buns and pomelo. Each of the offerings actually means a form of good luck. Also, red round paper are placed on or around the food offerings to convey good wishes like luck, prosperous and success to the family. Prior the ceremony, all folded joss papers in shapes of ancient gold and silver ingots with different sizes will be placed underneath the table for offering to the god. One with bigger size is know as the Ti-Kong-Kim are folded in shape of gold ingots.

The ceremony started by lighting up the big red candles and three large joss sticks. Then the family members beginning from the elderly to the younger generation will pray toward the heaven with lighted joss sticks (3 each).

My mum will throw the kidney shape wooden blocks on the floors so called 'pua-puay' to see if the god had happily enjoyed his meal. If the god had given us the "green light", then we will proceed to burn the prayer paraphernalia which include joss sticks, kim jua (folded joss paper) and and the suger cane leaves. By then, it will be around 2am in the morning when we finished the prayer.

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