Annual flame-watching ceremony predicts promising economic growth during three quadrimesters of this year

GEORGETOWN: The annual flame-watching ceremony, traditionally organised by Poh Hock Seah temple for the past 200 years and held at the Thai Pak Khoong (also known as Hai Choo Soo) temple in Tanjong Tokong, predicted good to average economic growth this year.

The economic growth is predicted to take place during three quadrimesters, from February to May, June to September and October to January 2025.

The quadrimesters correspond with the lunar calendar months from the 1st to the 4th month, the 5th to 8th month and the 9th to 12th month.

The ceremony, known as Chneah Hoay, took place on Feb 23 and coincided with the 14th day of the Lunar New Year.

Thai Pak Khoong is in the Hakka dialect, while Hai Choo Soo, referring to the Tanjong Tokong area, means sea pearl in Hokkien.

The temple committee members gathered by the seaside to observe the rising tide before the start of Chneah Hoay.

“We waited until the first wave covers the stone as an indication to start the ceremony. Then, we proceeded to the temple to ignite the fire in the urn, with our master leading the ceremony,” said Ewe Chee Way, who is one of the committee members.

The fire was lit by burning a bundle of incense at 12:01am and the results for the quadrimesters were announced a minute apart, starting at 12:06am, as “Good”, “Average” and “Bad”. The height and intensity of the flames indicated the economic growth for each of the three quadrimesters.

Amid the festive atmosphere, many devotees thronged the temple to pay their respects and pray for prosperity, good fortune and protection from harm. Some also lit up giant joss sticks, which they had ordered beforehand.

Each year, before the 14th day of the lunar new year, the statue of the Tua Pek Kong deity and urn is brought from the Poh Hock Seah Tua Pek Kong temple in Armenian Street to the Thai Pak Khoong (Hai Choo Soo) temple. Both the statue and the urn were returned to Poh Hock Seah temple after the ceremony has ended at around 5am. Tua Pek Kong is a revered deity among the Taoist Chinese community in Malaysia.

According to local legend, it is believed that Tua Pek Kong, also known as Zhang Li, arrived at the shores of Tanjong Tokong with his brother around 1700, which is forty years before Francis Light.

Zhang Li, who was a merchant, was well-known for his benevolence and when he died in Penang, people began praying to him. Tua Pek Kong began gaining popularity as more of his devotees’ wishes were fulfilled. Their tombs remain beside the temple in Tanjong Tokong.

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