In the wee hours of the morning, a number of Kuala Kubu Bharu village residents are busy preparing a tableful of offerings in front of their house, gathering on the roadside to look around in anticipation. As the sun breaks through the clouds, drumming and firecrackers crackling fill the air, about a thousand devotees throng around Yuè Shān Gǔ Miào where the Shī Yé patrol procession begin, heading into each and every alley of the local village to shower blessings, and then the town before returning to the temple. The entire route measures about seven kilometres. Along the way, devotees kneel and pray to the deities for protection over their families, as well as exchanging incense and offerings with the procession.
The main deities of Yuè Shān Gǔ Miào are the Third Shī Yé and Fourth Shī Yé, Third Shī Yé being Kapitan Shin Kap alias Kapitan Sheng Meng Li, the Kapitan of Sungei Ujong or Seremban who was worshipped upon his demise in war; Fourth Shī Yé being Chung Lai, a commander who fought together with Yap Ah Loy and lost his life in the Selangor Civil War. As a memorial to the two late Hakka leaders who fought hard to protect the community, they were venerated in the same temple by Yap Ah Loy. Eventually a religious cult was established by the Hakka clan in Malaya, which later on spread to various settlements, watching over the development of tin mining towns.
Yuè Shān Gǔ Miào was built in 1895, overlooking and safeguarding the village and town of Kuala Kubu Bharu. Initially Kuala Kubu in Ulu Selangor, the town was founded on tin mining and rubber cultivation. Six decades ago, disaster befell the town, after consultation with deities, Shī Yé went on a patrol procession to drive away evils therefore restoring peace. Since then, the procession became a triannual event held on the 15th day of the second lunar month, with a three-day ritual ceremony.
The current president of the organizing committee, Mr Tan Tek Son, who grew up in Kuala Kubu Bharu and is now 77 years old, has been handling temple affairs for over half a century, thus very familiar with the procedures. Preparations start one month in advance due to tedious and time-consuming aspects, volunteers turn up to help in scrubbing altars, polishing censers, folding joss papers, cleaning and re-assembling wooden sedan chairs. On the procession day itself, some even come as early as 3A.M. to cook vegetarian fare for attendees.
What catches the eye most is the “Iron Throne” – a wooden sedan seat lined with sharp nails. A week before the procession, the temple lets interested spirit mediums perform moon block toss, whoever wins the most approvals from Shī Yé gets assigned. In olden days, the customary practice was getting spirit mediums to stay overnight at the temple, Shī Yé will decide on which candidate prior to the procession, however in recent years this practice was overridden by moon block toss to show fairness.
The procession is led by gong, drums, lion dance, and the Marshals of Five Celestial Camps, then comes the “Iron Throne”. This year’s assigned spirit medium is 61-year-old Mr Yap Swee Lin, who after being possessed by Shī Yé sat steadily upon the “Iron Throne” while brandishing a sword, maintaining a calm countenance despite the constant jolting. The censer as well as tables laden with offerings followed right after.
Bringing up the rear are the two sedan chairs of Shī Yé and Guān Yīn respectively, with Shī Yé’s borne by male devotees while Guān Yīn’s borne by female devotees, followed by spirit mediums and devotees with their cheeks pierced by needles. Devotees who encounter misfortune may request to kneel under the sedan chair for luck.
Shī Yé worship is founded on a collective need for peace, security, and health. The triannual procession is not on a large scale, yet in the small town it is considered a grand event. By the means of a patrol procession, the deity showers blessings upon local residents, who found spiritual ease, as well as promoting community bonds and cultural heritage.
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Michael Lerk
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Michael Lerk
Copywriter : Pua Hui Wen
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