Nine emperor gods festival (九王爷)


The nine emperor gods festival (九王爷) is a grand Taoist ritual where some Taoists go on strict vegetarian diet for either 9 or 3 days of the day festival. It starts tomorrow on the first day of the Chinese 9th lunar month until the 9th day.

The above is the temple along Jalan Burmah in Penang where the nine emperor gods are. (sorry I have never been inside and do not know if the gods are in statue or tablet form). All around the island, temporary makeshift stalls selling vegetarian foods can be found.


A scene outside the temple. Giant jossticks, oil (for lighting), rice (for donation to the needy) and other paper paraphernalias are sold. Taoists will place their vows and go on vegetarian fasts.

This vegetarian fast is rather strict as devotees are not allowed to consume onions, garlics, leeks, spring onions (as they are believed to cause sexual desires) and absolutely no animal source like milk or any dairy products. The plates, cooking utensils and everything else must be strictly for this vegetarian diet, i.e. newly bought and used for this festival only.

Those devotees taking part in the rituals are also not allowed to have sexual relationships during the nine days.


Spiral joss-sticks that will burn for nine days, offered by devotees.

On the eve of the nine day festivals, some of the temple religious followers will go into trance, go out at sea and invite the nine brothers. Many years back, I had the opportunity to witness the ceremony. If anyone has a chance, do take a look. All the different gods will be in their full suits like the monkey god, god of war, beggar god, child (nacha) god and others. You can expect a lot of whipping and swords fights.

It is believed that these nine brothers lived out at sea and perished during a storm. So, whenever the nine days festival come by, it is sure to rain. In fact, during the late 70s, the Penang island was so badly flooded.


Food of course is the centre of attraction. There will be all kinds of vegetarian foods on sale. Mock ducks, pigs, chicken, fish, prawns and every kind of ‘animals’ are cleverly made from soy and gluten products. Nowadays, there is even vegetarian laksa and pizzas.


The two main locations where lots of foods are sold in Penang are at Madras Lane and the field at Caunterhall flats.

All the above photos were taken from the temple at Jalan Burmah which is opposite TM Net.

After the nine days, the devotees whom had fasted will perform fire walking, piercing (something like Thaipusam) and other rituals to test their faiths. After which, a ceremony to send the gods back to sea will take place again. Expect at least a drizzle or shower on this day because it is said that these nine emperor gods are very neat people and must have the roads they travel on to be ‘washed’ before their journey.

Please surf over to TV Smith’s site for his lovely photos on this festival.

I hope have a chance to take photos of the vegetarian foods in the next few days.

(Note: All these are things I heard while growing up and I used to accompany my mother-in-law to the temples. I am a Christian.)

Post Author: Lilian

Food, travel, recipes. Chinese Malaysian, blogger, photographer and writer.

9 thoughts on “Nine emperor gods festival (九王爷)


    (October 2, 2005 - 10:09 pm)

    nice picture 🙂


    (October 2, 2005 - 11:35 pm)

    Oh, i miss this festival! It’s quite a big event in Penang, but unfortunately, I’ve not seen it in Singapore at all. I love buying those kueh (some taste a bit powdery, some are chewy, u get what i mean? :-P) from the stalls too.


    (October 3, 2005 - 3:40 am)

    Wow, it is celebrated big time in Penang. I hope it rains though, we badly need rain as the dam in Selangor is near the critical levels.


    (October 4, 2005 - 12:37 pm)

    Wah wah wah, since when you know how to use Chinese wan?


    (October 4, 2005 - 4:39 pm)

    kiasi – Aiyah…I got good teacher mah. Copy and paste mah. Telima kasih cikgu.

    boo – It has been raining every day and especially mornings. Poor kids who have to go to school for their exams kena lor.

    Piggy – This also got commercialised already. Nowadays, everyone also started hanging a yellow cloth and sell everything.

    jlchannel – Thanks!


    (October 4, 2005 - 9:47 pm)

    nine emperor gods festival & puasa month…
    (tomorrow is the first day of puasa month loh..)
    so, there’ll be lotsa food stalls selling delicious yummy foods… 😉


    (August 19, 2006 - 4:51 pm)

    but then hor,if you’re really sincere ar,why you must have mock ducks and animals to remind yourself of the meat leh?? means no sincere u eating oso coz u are thinking bout meat all the time until eat vegetarian food also need to duplicate it become animal.


    (October 30, 2006 - 2:22 pm)

    I wonder anybody can tell me the story about this nine emperor gods festival (九王爷), please e-mail to me at


    (October 31, 2006 - 3:10 am)

    Yup..yup…yup Vince…I agree with u. I also intrest in Nine Emperor God story….

    I am frm Perlis.There also got NEG temple there.I saw a story bord there written its story…But I can’t remember it has been many yrs ago.

    If not mistaken story is like…

    In ancient time in China, there is a war and many ppl suffered (hungry, death…etc) so there have nine people who is very brave and in order to help people, the nine people are fight against the war but unfortunately they are drowned.

    So those people in order to “remember” those 9 people, those villageers/people. They are wearing white shirt & pants (Tai Xiao – chinese word) and also eat vegetarian in order to remember & thanks them.

    Hmm…well I not sure whether this story is true neither. If anyone knw abt this pls do tell me as I very interest….pls send to ~

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