Penang Perspective: The Jade Emperor Temple


The Jade Emperor Temple at Ayer Itam.

Today marks the 9th day of Chinese lunar new year, which is also a Chinese Hokkien celebration for giving thanks and gratitude to the Jade Emperor.
Legend has it that once upon a time, the Chinese Hokkien people from the Fujian province in China managed to hide (with the blessing from the Jade Emperor) from their enemies in a sugarcane farm on Chinese New Year Day for nine consecutive days. Henceforth, on every 9th day of the Chinese lunar new year, the Hokkiens marked the occasion by having a big celebration.

The Jade Emperor Temple

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The Jade Emperor Temple at the foot of Penang Hill.

During the ninth day of the Chinese New Year, Chinese Hokkien people will be celebrating the birthday of the Jade Emperor. This day is also known as the Hokkien people’s new year, and has its origin back during the Song Dynasty where Chinese Hokkien refugees were saved from being caught and killed by the Mongols on the same day of the Jade Emperor’s birthday. Hence, as gratitude and believing that the Jade Emperor had saved them, the Hokkien people soon marked this day as an important festival to be celebrated.

Most Chinese in Penang are Hokkiens, so this day is usually celebrated more widely (and ‘loudly’) here than the first day of Chinese New Year.

Penang CNY: The Jade Emperor Birthday (Weld Quay)

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Today marks the birthday of the Jade Emperor deity.

During the Chinese New Year’s 15-days period in Penang, the celebration for the birthday of the Jade Emperor will fall on the 9th lunar day of Chinese New Year. This day is particularly celebrated a lot by the Hokkien community in Penang and is also commonly referred to as the Hokkien New Year. There will be lots of prayers, food offerings and various festivities held for the Jade Emperor on this day. Two popular areas in Penang where this day is celebrated are the Jade Emperor Pavilion temple at Ayer Itam and the Clan Jetties area at Weld Quay, George Town.

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Prayers for the Jade Emperor

Jade Emperor Prayers

The Chinese Hokkien community would be celebrating the birthday of the Jade Emperor, or Thnee Kong Seh, today at 12am — the ninth day of the Chinese lunar calendar. As the clock strikes 12 midnight, the celebration would be kicking off with prayers often accompanied by the sound of firecrackers and offerings to the Jade Emperor. For the local Hokkiens here, this day is in fact celebrated even more extravagantly than the first day of Chinese New Year and is also known as the Hokkien New Year.

Penang Isle: Pavilion of the Jade Emperor

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Pavilion of the Jade Emperor is a temple complex built on the slope of the Penang Hill and is nearby the lower tram station.
The temple was built for the worship of the Chinese Jade Emperor (Thnee Kong). The birthday of the Jade Emperor, which falls on the ninth day of Chinese New Year, is celebrated by the Hokkien community who offer prayers and food items to the protector of their ancestors in China.

The Taoist temple complex has been undergoing major renovation since 2002 but its history and existence stretches much further to 1905. It was still a small Taoist shrine back then.

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The Jade Emperor deity statue. Prayers and offerings are made during his birthday on the ninth day of the lunar new year.

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The Entrance Arch to the temple from the main road.