The celebration for the birthday of the Jade Emperor falls on the 9th lunar day of Chinese New Year and is celebrated mainly by the Chinese Hokkien community in Penang, which is also commonly referred to as the “Hokkien New Year”.
Two popular areas in Penang where this day is celebrated are the Jade Emperor Pavilion temple at Ayer Itam and the Clan Jetties area (such as the pictures below) at Weld Quay, George Town.
Completed in 1931, the Penang Buddhist Association is located along Anson Road in George Town. The old Straits Eclectic style building is a popular place for Buddhists in Penang to participate in various religious and communal activities.
Apart from Wesak Day, many people also usually visit it on the first day of Chinese New Year for new year prayers.
Located along Victoria Street and built in 1878, Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi is is one of the two ancestral temples which belong to the Khoo clan in Penang.
Kek Lok Si lights up at nights during the Chinese New Year period.
The Hean Boo Thean Temple, nearby the clan jetties at Weld Quay, George Town.
Kek Lok Si at night during the last few days of its lighting period.
Today marks the 9th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which is also a big celebration of the Chinese Hokkien to express their gratitude to the Jade Emperor. It is also known as the Hokkien people’s new year, and in Penang where the majority of Chinese are Hokkiens, it is usually celebrated more widely (and ‘loudly’) than the first day of Chinese Lunar New Year.
It was said that during the Song Dynasty, Chinese Hokkien refugees were saved from being caught and killed by the Mongols on the same day of the Jade Emperor’s birthday after hiding in a sugarcane farm for nine consecutive days.
Hence, as a gratitude and believing that the Jade Emperor had blessed and saved them, the Hokkiens celebrated this occasion by offering prayers (usually including sugarcane too) to the Jade Emperor.
Kek Lok Si Temple, for the first time, will be broadcasting its lighting ceremony virtually today via Facebook for the coming Chinese New Year. This is due to the current Movement Control Order which is put in place across the country till 18 February, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual ceremony will start at 7pm today (GMT+8, 7 February) and those interested, can watch the virtual ceremony here: LINK