On the evening of Sunday, 25 September (the 30th and last day of the 8th Lunar Month), I visited Punggol Marina to catch the arrival of the Nine Emperor Gods.
This was a Qing Shui (请水, literally “Invite Water”) ritual organised by Leng San Giam Dou Mu Gong (龙山岩斗母宮), part of the Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple based at 791 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.
Around 6pm, an advance party arrived at one of the piers to set up an altar in the open area. The altar included nine urns for each of the Nine Emperor Gods, and deities from the temple, such as Mazu, Fa Zhu Gong, and Jiu Huang Wu Di (the Fifth Emperor God).
As dusk gave way to night, three priests led a small group of devotees in prayer.
Nine urns were readied for each of the Nine Emperor Gods.
Close to 8pm, the main body from the temple streamed in.
It was time to invite the Nine Emperor Gods. A small group of devotees, with a medium, headed out to sea on a motorboat, while the priests waited at the edge of the pier.
The motorboat returned after 10 minutes; the medium had the Nine Emperor Gods in him. He was led up the pier, where he was greeted by lion dances and hundreds of devotees in a carnival-like atmosphere.
The nine joss sticks he clutched were transferred to the nine urns for the Nine Emperor Gods.
Devotees then carried the nine urns to nine brightly-lit sedan chairs. The sedan chairs were rocked to and fro to cheers and shouts.
Eventually, after a circuitous route, the sedan chairs were carried outside the marina and loaded onto waiting trucks bound for the temple. That will be the abode of the Nine Emperor Gods for the next nine days.
Amidst the modern, expensive yachts and motorboats of the marina, there was space for an ancient tradition going back hundreds, maybe thousands, of years.