Farewell to the Nine Emperors

Farewell to the Nine Emperors

A temple volunteer rests during the week festival of the nine emperors.

This past week I have had a few opportunities to drop in on the happenings down at the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy on Jalan Burma in downtown Penang, here in Malaysia. Things were hopping down there as they have been celebrating the Festival of the Nine Emperors. From what I understand, details change from one temple to another. So all I can do is give you the information about this temple,  The Goddess of Mercy. Apparently, about the time of the Ming Dynasty in China there were nine emperors. These emperors stole from the rich and gave to the poor much like Europe’s Robin Hood. Some people call them Pirates, others just call them do-gooders. At one point these nine emperors were backed to the sea by opposing forces and all seemed lost. When miraculously out of the ocean came a red turtle, a giant red turtle. They hopped on its back and rode to safety and eventually became stars. Not like rock stars, real stars as in the Big Dipper. Seven of these stars are seen throughout the year, but two only show up on the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It’s during this time when all nine stars are seen that the nine emperors are worshiped. Here’s where things get very confusing. Some temples believe all nine emperors returned during this month, others believe only one or two arrive back. However many there are, they are worshiped and people often offer prayers and offerings to the nine emperors during these days. Devotees also abstain from eating meat during the nine days. This nine-day fast ends when the Emperors are ushered back to the ocean by a large procession centered around yellow boat that is set afloat and later burned at sea. That’s pretty much it in a Reader’s Digest summary. These images range from artistic to informative. I hope you enjoy them.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Other Photographers Show Their Stuff – CJH Photography - [...] recommend that you have a look at Matt Brandon’s blog for some shots from Penang.  Matt thought I could embed his…

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