Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Cheras Yong Tau Fu

Although Ampang New Village is well-known among Kuala Lumpur and PJ residents for its Hakka yong tau fu, another place has also staked its claim as the maker of the best Hakka yong tau fu: Cheras. Many KLites and PJ residents have claimed that it rivals that of Ampang New village. My eldest daughter and her boyfriend dragged me to Wah Kiow one morning to try it.

Wah Kiow is located on one of the side streets off Jalan Peel. What struck me was that there are still a few roads in Cheras that are still named after colonial luminaries: Jalan Peel, Jalan Shelley and Jalan Cochrane. There may be a few others, but these are the three names that I came across on the way to Wah Kiow. It seems unusual that the authorities have not attempted to remove the vestiges of colonization as they were wont to do in the past.

Wah Kiow operates its business in a dilapidated building with rusted zinc roof. Adjoining the shop is a small grocery shop that has benefited from the spill-over of customers that throng Wah Kiow.

Besides yong tau fu, it offers other dishes like pork leg, Hakka fried pork, curry chicken and assam fish.

Wah Kiow

The neighbourhood grocery store

Interior of the shop

A customer writing down his selection of food

We ordered a selection of yong tau fu, meat balls, and dumplings. The food was good but it wasn’t exceptional. My daughters raved about it, but as I have suspected all along, my taste buds are so poorly developed that I couldn’t distinguish the subtle differences in food. According to them, what separates Hakka yong tau fu from others is the addition of salted fish in the fish paste. What kind of salted fish is a trade secret. Unlike other yong tau fu stalls that proliferate in KL and PJ, the yong tau fu here is freshly prepared and fried. The owner employs a number of Indonesian women who prepare the yong tau fu for deep-frying or steaming.

Apart from yong tau fu, there are also other dishes

Business is fast and furious

Fishballs, chilli, lady’s fingers and brinjal. Note the near empty tray of brinjal

Bitter gourd slices filled with fish paste ready for frying

Fresh lady’s fingers with fish paste

Sliced brinjal to be filled with fish paste

Tau fu stuffed with fish paste

Making fu chok with fish paste. Some red chilli to be filled with fish paste

Close-up shot of fu chok spread with fish paste

Dried black mushrooms. They are first soaked and their stems removed before being topped with generous amount of fish paste

Tau fu pok with fish paste

Filling made from sliced black mushrooms, pork, shrimps,carrot and finely chopped water chestnuts for dumplings

Frying bitter gourd

Frying brinjal

Frying fu chok

A savoury variety of yong tau fu

Red chilli, lady’s finger, brinjal, tau pok, fish ball and bitter gourd

Fried fu chok

Fried bitter gourd and dumpling

Oyster balls

Tau pok and meat balls

Sweet 'chee cheong fun' sauce with chilli sauce that goes with yong tau fu

Food selection slip

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Dr Farish on Meng Chee and the Myth of Tanah Melayu

It was refreshing to read Dr Farish's post on the Wee Meng Chee controversy posted on Dr Hsu's Forum (http://hsudarren.worpress.com).

As Dr Farish sees it, rapper Meng Chee is but another manifestation of the virulent malady of the racial and divisive politics of Malaysia. Malaysians not of the Malay race should tread softly and gingerly, speak in mild tone so as not to offend as they are here at the largesse of the Malays:

"Meng Chee’s unpardonable ‘offence’ was to have slighted the pride and identity of one community which claims to be part of Malaysia and yet remains strangely aloof from the rest of us. The great act of treason he is accused of - offending the dignity of a specific community and its creed - rings hollow when we consider the bile and vitriol that has emanated from the leaders of that community itself, ranging from the drawing of daggers in public to the language of blood and belonging that has been repeated, time and again, by its leaders".

Reproduced below is the article written by Dr Farish posted on Dr Hsu's Forum:

Malaysia and the Myth of ‘Tanah Melayu’(Part I)

By Farish A. Noor

We are sustained by myths only as long as they are empowering, inspiring, instrumental and serve our interests; yet when those very same myths provide us with little else than the false comfort of an unreconstructed nostalgia for a past that never existed, then they turn into cages that imprison us for life. The myth of a unique European ‘civilisational genius’ has only helped to parochialise Europe even more; the staid discourse of ‘Asian values’ merely denies the fact that Asian civilisations would not have developed as they did without contact with the outside world; and the myth of a pure and uninterrupted development of Indo-Aryan culture has only opened the way for the rise of right-wing Hindutva Fascists in the Indian subcontinent. Notwithstanding their claims to standing proud and tall, the demagogues who utter such pedestrian nonsense remain stunted, as their logic, on the stage of global history: testimony to the claim that those whose confidence is founded in stilts can only remain handicapped for life…

A nation that is grown up is one that is mature enough to realise that it can dispense with such myths, particularly when the honeyed nectar of mythology reveals itself as nothing more than poison. Yet poison has become our draught, and this nation of ours is ailing to the core by now.

The symptoms of the malady are all around us these days and we see them readily enough: As the asinine debate over a rap rendition of the national anthem turns bilious and takes on an increasingly racialised mien, forcing all sides to retreat to the hallowed sanctuary of communal and racial identity, the nation’s attention has been diverted from truly pressing issues concerning the economy and the spate of potentially explosive legal cases currently being fought out in the courts of the land.

The vernacular press assumes the role of champions of each respective community, and racial overtones are clearly seen and felt in the language of national politics. Yet nobody points to the real issue at stake, even if we need to discuss the rap video rendered by the young Wee Meng Chee, which surely should be this: If a young Malaysian has seen fit to deliver his tirade against all that he sees wrong in the country in terms that are racially-determined, is this not a reflection of the racialised and divisive politics that already reigns in Malaysia, courtesy of the ruling National Front coalition led by UMNO in the first place? The racialised logic that rests in Meng Chee’s rap is only a mirror reflection of the racialised politics already at work in Malaysia. So are we Malaysians so ashamed of ourselves that we can no longer look at ourselves squarely in the face and accept the monstrosity that stands before us today?

Yet the editorials in the vernacular press are baying for blood and Meng Chee, they insist, must be brought to book. Amidst this furore of chest-thumping theatrics and protestations of communal insult and outrage, we hear the communitarians among us blare out again and again: ‘Jangan tunduk’, ‘Defend our pride’, ‘kurang ajar’ and so forth. No, reason and rational debate are no longer welcomed in Malaysia that is ‘truly Asia’, and this homeland for some will demand its pound of flesh from others. Meng Chee is not the first and certainly will not be the last to suffer from the slighted sensitivities of those whose comfort zones and essentialised identities are sacrosanct and inviolable. Previously others have also been brought to the village tribunal of the mob for allegedly insulting race and religion as well. (Here I write from bitter experience myself.)

Yet the irony of ironies behind this tableau of flaring tempers and heated emotions is the skewered (and now silenced) appeal for us, as one nation, to remain united and to respect the diversity among us. The sonorous voice of the state trembles and falters as it mouths this language of double-speak that fails to convince: On the one hand we maintain the lie - and it is a lie, let us admit that at least - that this is a happy land of multiculturalism and diversity where every shade of colour in the pluralist rainbow is represented and has its place. On the other hand the very same mouth that utters these sweet platitudes tells us that not far beneath the diversity and pluralism that rests on the scratched surface of Malaysia is the understated understanding that some communities - or rather one in particular - deserves a better place in the sun; namely, the Bumiputeras. Why?

Have we become a schitzophrenic nation blissfully unaware of the contradictions that have become so heartbreakingly apparent to others? Meng Chee’s unpardonable ‘offence’ was to have slighted the pride and identity of one community which claims to be part of Malaysia and yet remains strangely aloof from the rest of us. The great act of treason he is accused of - offending the dignity of a specific community and its creed - rings hollow when we consider the bile and vitriol that has emanated from the leaders of that community itself, ranging from the drawing of daggers in public to the language of blood and belonging that has been repeated, time and again, by its leaders. The soap box orators of UMNO and its Youth Wing in particular have demanded that others respect the special rights and privileges of the Malays, while forgetting the fact that for the past five decades we - Malaysians - have had to put up with their own brand of small town politics incessantly.

Yet this discourse of communal pride and identity is sustained by one crucial myth: that this land of ours is a competed and contested territory where two nations are in constant competition: The nation-state called ‘Malaysia’ and the mythical land called ‘Tanah Melayu’.

Tanah Melayu Revisited

The skin of the demagogue is ever so sensitive, so fragile, in the face of the sound argument. As soon as the mention of a contrary idea is made, it bristles and reacts; the hand reaches for the keris; the foot steps on the soap-box; the mouth opens to utter the word ‘May’ to be followed by the cryptic number thirteen…

Perhaps the sensitivity we see can be accounted for by the fact that the corpus of postcolonial ethno-nationalist politics in this country is sustained by the singular myth that this patch of God’s earth was and is a land that ‘belongs’ to one community in particular. From that myth issues forth the other related claims to special privileges, special rights, special allocations and entitlements.

The myth is sustained by the idea put forth that prior to thecoming-into-being of this nation called ‘Malaysia’ there was once this mythical land called ‘Tanah Melayu’. Yet the historian would be hard pressed indeed to find a source to back this claim, for the embarrassing thing about our epic histories and hikayats of old is that there is scarcely a mention of the word. For years - if not more than a decade by now - I have been looking for this mythical land so loved and cherished by the young bloods and hotspurs of UMNO, yet I have never discovered it. The Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa (written in stages between the late 17th to 18th centuries) does not mention it; nor does the Hikayat Patani, the Taj-us-Salatin (Mahkota Segala Raja-Raja), the Hikayat Shah Mardan, Hikayat Inderaputera, Silsilah Bugis, Hikayat Pasai, Hikayat Siak, etc.

And finally one day while trawling through the flea markets and antique bazaars of Europe I came across a dull and worn-out copper coin with the word ‘Tanah Melayu’ stamped on it, dating to the late 19th century.

Having taken it home, I looked it up in the reference books I had only to discover that it was one of those hybrid coins of dubious worth that were used in the trade between European colonial companies then stationed in Singapore and Malacca with Malay traders from the (then weakened) Malay sultanates on the Peninsula. Used as loose coinage in commercial transactions that were at best unequal and at worst exploitative to the Malay traders then, the coins had a decidedly counterfeit feel to them, and while registering the lightness of its weight in the palm of my hand, the thought came to me: That this coin, with the word ‘Tanah Melayu’ stamped on it in Jawi alphabet, sums up the irony of the past and the painful realities of colonialism then. The Malay kingdoms had been colonised, sidelined and diminished, and all that was given back to the Malays was a dull copper coin with the myth of ‘Tanah Melayu’ stamped on it in so casual a manner.

Colonialism had robbed the natives of Asia of their lands, their history and culture; introduced the divisive politics of race and ethnicity as part of the ideology of divide and rule, and had created a plural economy where the colonial masters reigned supreme. In the decades and centuries to come the colonised subjects would be doubly colonised again as they internalised the logic and epistemology of Empire, thereby completing the work of the colonial masters who had colonised their lands, stolen their resources, but not altered their minds.

Today, as race-based ethno-nationalist politics prevails in Malaysia and while our communities remain divided along sectarian race and religion-based lines, we lament the loss of the Malaysian ideal that was perhaps never there in the first place. The hounding of bloggers, activists and students like Meng Chee is a reminder that the frontiers of race, religion and ethnicity remain as permanent scars that have disfigured the landscape of our nation, apparently permanently.

And as the virulent voices in the vernacular editorials of the local press call for vengeance against Meng Chee, perhaps they should ask themselves this simple and honest question: For half a century now the so-called ‘non-Malays’ of Malaysia have been asked to attest their loyalty and commitment to the Malaysian idea and ideal; to relegate their cultural history to the background; to adopt the national language, culture and even dress in an attempt to assimilate to the reality of life in Malaysia.

But tell me, dear reader, how many Malays in Malaysia are truly Malaysian; and how many Malays think of themselves as Malaysian and are committed to that very same ideal of a Malaysian Malaysia? Are the Malays Malaysians who live in Malaysia? Or are the Malays still living in the mythological land of ‘Tanah Melayu’, an idea dreamt of by Orientalist scholars and administrators during the colonial era, as a worthless compensation to a people who had been colonised and whose pride was reduced to the worth of a copper coin?

End of Part 1.

Prof. Farish A. Noor is a historian and political scientist based at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin and affiliated professor to Universitas Muhamadiyah Surakarta and the Sunan Kalijaga Islamic University of Jogjakarta. He is also one of the founders of the research site www.othermalaysia.org

Mathematics Malaysian Style

While checking out some sites, I came across "Colour-blind" which posted some mathematical questions that will guarantee to sharpen the mathematical skills of Malaysian students.

From "Colour-blind":

Mathematics, Malaysian-style
Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I find it most alarming that Malaysian schools teach our children the wrong things. I mean: can the children really apply what they are taught in school later in life? For example, can you imagine a mathematics question in a recent examination as follows?

“If an egg costs fifty Sen, and if you buy one-eighth of the egg, howmuch would you have to pay?”

Who in heaven’s name will want to buy one-eighth of an egg? The shopkeeper will probably think you are crazy and he will be equally stupid to break the egg and measure one-eighth for you. Yet, this is how they structure the questions in Malaysian schools. Why not pose questions that would be more useful later in life when you go out into the world to earn your living?
To help Malaysia’s Ministry of Education to face the realities of life, we are suggesting some questions they could use in our classrooms.

If you drive from Kuala Lumpur to Penang along the PLUS Highway and there are four speed traps along the way, and if each speed trap would cost you RM300.00 in fines, how much in fines would you accumulate by the time you reach Penang?

ANSWER (Choose one)

1. I would not suffer any fines as the oncoming cars would flash their headlights and I would slow down before coming to the speed trap.

2. I would only need to pay a total of RM80.00 as I would pay a RM20.00 bribe at each speed trap.

3. I would not be stopped as I am an UMNO Wakil Rakyat so I am exempted from speed traps.

If your Bumiputera company is awarded a RM150 million government contract, and you make a 20% profit, how much profit would be at the end of the contract period?

ANSWER (Choose one)
1. I will not be making a 20% profit as I would have to pay the Minister 10% and UMNO 5%.

2. I would make 30% profit, which is the progress payment I receive, after which I will abandon the project and let the government call for a re-tender.

3. My company will not make any profit at all as I will siphon out all the profits and show a loss to avoid paying corporate tax.

If the ruling party obtained 54% of the popular votes the last election and won 151 or 80% of the seats, and if it saw an increase of 10% in votes this election, how many more seats would it gain?

ANSWER (Choose one)
1. The ruling party will not show a 10% increase in votes, as it will stuff the ballot box with another 20% to give it a 30% vote increase.

2. The ruling party will win all the newly created seats in the delineation exercise recently done.

3. The ruling party has already decided it will win 90% of the seats and the votes have nothing to do with it.

If the national petroleum company, Petronas, pays a 5% royalty to Terengganu State and if the amount paid is RM800,000,000 per year, how much should Petronas have in the bank accumulated over the last 25years?

ANSWER (Choose one)
1. Nobody is supposed to know as Petronas need not show its accounts to anyone except the Prime Minister and this information comes under the Official Secrets Act.

2. Petronas earns only 50% of its petroleum revenue from Terengganu so Petronas’ total income accumulated in the banks over 25 years should beRM800 billion.

3. Petronas has nothing accumulated in the bank as all the money hasspent bailing out companies and finance mega projects.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Slaying The Mosquito

The Wee Meng Chee ‘Negara Ku’ controversy is the latest episode to dampen the buildup to the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. Predictably, the politicos capitalized on the controversy and positioned themselves to milk the situation for what it is worth: UMNO demands his blood, MCA sets itself up as the Defender; DAP of course defends the right to freedom of expression. The strong language used by Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department is intended to send a signal not only to Meng Chee the rapper but to the general public that the government will not hesitate to throw the Sedition Act at anyone who insults the flag, the country, Islam or incite racial hatred. And in the middle of it all Meng Chee has created something bigger than himself. Whether his rap is deemed seditious will be decided by the Attorney General’s office.

But have we really looked at his rap with objectivity, not through the tinted glasses of our spectacles? Which part of his rap revealed his disrespect for the national anthem? Which part of his rap insults Islam? Which part of his rap insults the Malays?

It is funny how two little seemingly innocent words of the same sound could unleash such a torrent of anger and hate comments as well as praise. Two little words: ku ku. Datuk Nazri said that it desecrated the national anthem.

“Malaysia Negaraku ku ku. 'Ku ku' can also mean ‘cuckoo’ so it was insulting. I don’t think this was done out of ignorance. He was a university student and he meant to insult the national song.”

The Webster dictionary defined ‘cuckoo’ as (a) a kind of bird and (b) a cracked-brained person. In the Hokkien dialect, it is used to refer to the genital organ of a male baby or child.

The peppering of foul language has turned many people off, even the Chinese. But those brought up in the exclusively Chinese working class environment would not have given a second thought to these curse or swear words as they are so used to them. There are like a badge of identity to mark them as a separate cultural group. Go the market and carefully observe the exchanges between the fishmongers or the vegetable sellers, and you will be blasted with so much foul language that a person unused to this manner of speech would find his ears reddening with shame. Go to any open-air restaurant where a huge working class group gathers and you will be assaulted with expletives that even neighbouring tables cringed with embarrassment or disgust.

The Chinese working class; these are the underprivileged; they have been denied; trampled upon; despised and manipulated. And the foul language? An expression of their defiance, their pride, their affinity to their group. These are the people who would have to rely on the educated to help them with problems with income tax, official correspondence, traffic summonses, legal problems, school admission problems, language problems with government departments. This is the segment, and it is a very, very large segment of the Chinese community that have struggled fiercely to survive and to provide for their children. This are the Chinese that are apolitical for they know that no political party, neither the MCA nor the DAP can help them with their daily problem of survival. So what’s the big deal about the use of foul language? It is simply that the educated, the refined and the civilized do not use foul language. Meng Wee has even made a barbed reference to the refined, the high class:

“You’re so classy, you’re so elegant. Your shit is fragrant, and you don’t curse. You guys are the most high class, every day it’s just romancing”.

This is the class that having the least education has the most stereotyped perceptions of other races although the educated are not blameless of that either however much they deny it. How do they come to have such skewed perceptions? From the baggage passed down by their parents who themselves had received little or only basic education, and their daily observations and interactions with other races. Why do they label an Indian as one with ‘a forked tongue’? Because he can put you into a spin with his glib tongue. Why do they label the Malays as ‘lazy’? Because they are clock watchers. The sum of their perceptions is the sum of their baggage of the past and their daily contact with the other races.

In no other parts of the rap were words of the national anthem being twisted or distorted.

The heart of the matter is the reference to the morning azan, the call by the muezzin to Muslims to pray, corruption in the police force, the continuous dependence of the Malays on the government and the lackadaisical work attitude in government departments, the preferential treatment of Malays in tertiary education and the discrimination against Chinese graduate students from independent Chinese secondary school.

Are his criticisms legitimate? Rightly or wrongly, these are assumptions widely held by the Chinese youths of this country. It is a known fact that many Chinese parents do not enroll their children in Malay primary and secondary schools. It is a known fact that Chinese independent school graduates cannot enter public universities because their certificates are not recognized by the government. Did not the previous honorable prime minister say that national schools - primary and secondary - have become more Malay and more Islamic? This is the generation of Chinese youths that have felt the crushing weight of discrimination, whether imagined or real. This the generation that have little or no knowledge of the social contract that was hammered out for the independence and the racial harmony of the country.

Did not the previous and present Prime Minister continually exhort the Malays not to depend on the government and to strike out on their own? Did they not continue to remind the Malays that “we have become weak and too dependent; we have to stand on our own two feet”?

Meng Wee implied the same things, but in more graphic and hard-hitting language.

However, it was in his treatment of the azan prayer that really incensed the Malays. Islam is an issue that is so sensitive to the Malays that even a whisper would provoke an explosive outcry. However, it is instructive to note that in a website that identifies itself as the supporters of UMNO, The Christian God is referred to as ‘a fake god’ and a Christian and for that matter a ‘kafir’ or non-believer of Islam is perpetually drunk: “he and alcohol cannot be separated. It's like a drunk sleeping with bottles of alcohol”. Or in 1987 when the UMNO Youth Chief threatened to "soak it (the keris) with Malaysian Chinese blood".

Apparently, he knew the use of foul language would provoke the kind of reactions that he expects. Whether you wave a keris or use foul language, the purpose is the same: to evoke strong emotions.

Does the end justify the means? Many would say 'yes' but most would say 'no'. Unscrupulous or unbecoming methods to achieve an end is never justifiable.

If the government decides to charge Meng Wee under the Sedition Act, the keris waver and kisser, and the delegates that made inflammatory statements during the UMNO General Assembly in 2006 should also be hauled up for the same offence.

As blogger “Bolehland” quoting from Animal Farm says, “All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others”.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Storm In A Tea Cup

Wee Meng Chee, a Malaysian student in Taiwan did not anticipate the Malay anger that he would unleash when he rapped about Malaysian life using the Negara Ku or Malaysia's National anthem. Or did he?

His words must have touched on some raw nerves. Were his words so inflammatory? Compare what he rapped about with some of the statements made in the past and in the present, and the histrionics of some politicians and you will know what I mean. some people seem to suffer habitually from amnesia.

Brandishing of the keris (Malay dagger) during the 2005 UMNO General Assembly.

Unsheathing and kissing the keris during the 2006 UMNO General Assembly

Razak Idris, Terengganu Umno Youth Information Chief in the 2006 assembly:

Hashim Suboh, Perlis delegate:

Hasnoor Sidang Hussein, Malacca delegate:

Azimi Daim, UMNO Youth Exco member:

At the 2004 UMNO General Assembly:

In 1987, these words were displayed on banners:

Recently this was posted on a website:

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Who Is That Girl In The Body Suit?

The past two months have been eventful. The cyber battles that are fought between bloggers and UMNO or the government have provided people with a lot of food for thought. “Malaysia Today” , the foremost political website versus UMNO, the main partner in the coalition government and the government. Out of the blue, a Malaysian Chinese student studying in Taiwan added fuel to the fire when he used the Negara Ku or the Malaysian national anthem to compose a rap about how he feels about Malaysia. The reactions are to be expected: he had the support of the Chinese while the Malays condemned him for desecrating the Malaysian national anthem and insulting them.

Batu Pahat is also not spared of its share of incidents which shook its peace and tranquility: the shooting of a deregistered lawyer who survived and the fatal shooting of a businessmen at point blank; and two weeks ago, a video clip of a girl who seemingly drugged, performed a striptease as phone cameras panned and hands reached out to grab her body in a private karaoke room in a disco in town. It has provided the town with juicy bits of gossip: who is the girl? who filmed her with hand phone cameras? who are her parents? what was the girl doing alone in that place? and what kind of drug was slipped into her drink? Even the worried disco owner, who recently was detained under the Internal Security Act, hurriedly conducted an internal investigation to make sure that it did not take place on his premises.

The video clip, which seems to have spread like wild fire far and near, has stirred the collective lust of the male population, young and old. In coffee shops, restaurants, and hawker centres, people hunched over unabashed and strained to watch the tiny screen of a hand phone.

Every one seems to have a theory, some say she is only seventeen; some say nineteen; she is so-and-so’s daughter; her father owns a motorcylce repair shop; she has obviously done it before; she was definitely paid handsomely for her act; she didn't look like she was drugged; she was the girl who won a model contest in Batu Pahat. Nothing excites people more than to think that they know who she is; to think that she is a slut, a bitch, a whore, a nympho or whatever name you wish to call her; and probably deep down in their subconscious, how they wished they were a party to the action. It was such a shameful thing to witness people scrambling and craning their necks just to watch a video clip on a hand phone. When it was rumoured that there was sequel to the first one, calls after calls were made to ask who had it.

Vultures, that’s what I would call them; vultures sinking their talons into a carcass of meat and feeding in frenzy
. The voyeurs were just as guilty as the perpetrators themselves.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

The God of War

The birthday of the 20 year old Guan Di temple at Jalan Minyak Beku was celebrated with pageantry from the 23rd to the 25th of June of the Chinese lunar calendar. Guan Di, or Guang Gong or Guan Ye (160- 219) who was also known as the God of war was one of the most celebrated Chinese military generals in Chinese History. Guan Di, together with his sworn brothers, Liu Bei and Zhang Fei was lionized in the historical novel, ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’. To this day, Guan Ye is worshipped in many Taoist and Buddhist temples not only in China, but also in parts of the world where there are Chinese people.

The layout of the celebration at Guan Di temple at Jalan Minyak Beku

Stories abound as to how the temple has helped many people. One story concerned how a goldsmith was warned not to display expensive gold items in his shop during the one week in question. His shop was later robbed and fortunately he heeded the advice and he did not lose much. Another concerned a child born sickly who was brought to the temple by his grandmother to be blessed and he grew up to be a healthy teenager of 16.

The main temple where the generals and other deities reside.

The pantheon of generals and deities in the main temple

Outside the main temple sits the statue of Buddha

A devotee praying for good luck

The imposing temporary altar set up in front of the main temple for praying by the faithful

A temporary covered area to allow devotees to seek advice from the medium

A temporary stage to perform the Hokkien opera at night to entertain the generals and deities

The ‘heavenly stairs’ erected from tables to invite the generals and deities to come down to earth.

The five paper steeds of the generals

On the first night, the Hokkien troupe from Johore Baru staged their performance.

There was also a lion dance to add to the festivity of the occasion. The medium, carrying a flag and a sword was prancing and cantering, reminiscent of a general on a horse, as he led the lions from one ritual to another.

The lions making their way to the main temple.

The pair of lions kowtowing to the generals and deities

The medium carrying a flag and a sword surrounded by three attendants who would follow and interpret the gestures and sign language of the medium.

On the second night which is the actual birthday of Guan Di, a pig and goat which were donated were delivered and blessed by the Taoist priest. The pig and goat were later roasted and served to the members and guests of the temple.

A pig and a goat donated by the faithful

The medium attending to devotees

Part of the crowd that thronged the temple.

A section of the crowd that gathered underneath the tent set up to provide food and drinks.

As the night wore on, another pair of ‘green’ lions performed their acrobatics to the appreciation of the spectators.

Two of the committee members responsible for planning and organizing the celebration taking a breather.

On that night too was a modest auction of rice, bottles of wine, cooking oil, hampers of canned goods, sugar, vermicelli, whiskey, packs of Guinness Stout, school bags, money boxes, and even a bicycle.

The most important event for the devotees was the crossing of a ‘bridge’ flanked by members of the temple and led by a Taoist priest. The ceremony was to bless the worshippers and "reverse their misfortunes and bad luck". The devotees assembled themselves according to their Chinese zodiac signs to cross the bridge led by the Taoist priest.

The Taoist priest giving last minute instructions on crossing the ‘bridge’

Those born in the year of the snake

As the Taoist priest chanted his mantra and shook the bell in his hand, those born in the year of the snake would follow his across the ‘bridge’.

The finale of the night was a small fireworks display which enthralled many children.

On the third night, which is the last night of the celebration, there were yet another lion and dragon dance. By the third night however, the crowd had thinned.

The dragon circling the makeshift consultation area after paying its respect at the main temple.

Two golden lions showing off their choreographed moves to the enthusiastic crowd.

The pair of lions paying their respect to the generals and deities.

After the dragon and lion dance, the devotees made their way home and the members of the temple completed their tasks of clearing the compound of tables and chairs, dismantling the ‘heavenly stairs’, the temporary altar, and removing rubbish from the temple compound. It was quietly and efficiently done.

According to the temple chairman, the cost of engaging the Taoist priest, the lion dances, the dragon dance, and the Hokkien opera troupe alone came to a tidy sum of 8000 ringgit.