Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ghost Festival (7th Lunar Month) Ritual - The Possession by Dua Yah Peh (大爷伯) @ Choa Chu Kang Cemetery [Singapore]

The story goes like this.

I wanted to check out Singapore's largest cemetery in Lim Chu Kang during the ghost month as i am aware that despite the taboos associated with such visitations in this super-yin period; there are many Taoist temples that would specially organise trips to the cemeteries at night to perform rituals aimed at relieving the souls' suffering.

Problem was: the entire cemetery was devoid of any human activity and routes beyond ten meters away from the main Lim Chu Kang road were pitch black!

I was about to make a U-turn back to the expressway when i chanced upon a convoy of at least six parked motor vehicles with twenty over persons!

All of them belong to this religious group known as 忠雲壇 (directly translated as Loyal Cloud Altar) and their purpose that night was to perform a ritual involving possession by this notable ghost guard by the title of Dua Yah Peh.

My request to join them as an outsider was warmly welcomed! 
I was truthfully overjoyed!

Now, whenever Dua Yah Peh is mentioned, chances are you also hear the following three words; Di Yah Peh (二爷伯). There is in fact quite an interesting story about the two ghost guards known collectively as Dua Di Yah Peh (大二爷伯) or 黑白无常 and i would share with you later in this post.

Before entering the realm of the dead, it is recommended to light some incense sticks and say a few words of prayers (whatever religions or denominations you may belong to).

After that, it was a drive into the Chinese cemetery; i had absolutely no idea where we were being led to! By this time, there were over ten cars in the convoy.

Final Destination: Path 17.

The staff and devotees started setting up the altar for the ritual upon arrival. As i have no idea on how to help out, i did what i have always enjoyed.

Take pictures of the surroundings. Honestly, anything with flash at night just look horrible! I must seriously consider investing in a quality tripod and maybe a horseshoe flash. If i win the lottery that is. 

Saturday happened to be the 4th day of the 7th lunar month so the moon was still a bit shy. The entire graveyard would look marvelous on a full moon day but the 15th day of the ghost month happens to fall on a working day; Wednesday! 

Weirdly, the atmosphere was not as eerie as many expect it to be. Instead, both Alex and I felt extremely relaxed in the environment.

Figurines (Statues) of famous hell deities (including Dua Di Yah Peh, the ox-faced and horse-faced guards etc) filled up one table that served as the altar.

Facing the table was another setup to invoke the possession by Dua Yah Peh. Note the items on the table; cans of Guinness Stout, biscuits, pastries, a set of abacus, stacks of hell money.

Above is the medium who served as the temporary human skin for the hell deity. The possession process can be rather bizarre for some and words cannot really describe it. What i can probably add is that the medium would start to retch loudly!

I am going to share the story of Dua Di Yah Peh now. They were originally constables during the Qing dynasty who were heavily addicted to the evil of that era; opium. Dua Yah Peh, being the head constable, was given the choice to accept bribes in order to continue his addiction but chose not to do so as he knew it would harm more of his countrymen. His eventual choice was to hang himself.

Di Yah Peh was devastated by the demise of his sworn brother and ended his life the next day. In view of their noble character, the Jade Emperor decided to appoint them as hell guards with the following responsibilities; carry out law and order in hell, catch wandering spirits still lingering on earth and to provide ritual services to help human.

My source for the story came from here. It contains more details (like why Dua Yah Peh is always shown to have a long tongue), so do give it a click to read more.

Candles and incense sticks were placed in front of tombs and along the pathway in that area. With tens of thousands of graves, it would be impossible to cover the entire cemetery in one night!

Devotees were also busy building up two paper money wells that would go up in flames at the end of the ritual. Thankfully, the worst of the haze has already passed.

I counted at least three different convoys bypassing us; guess they were on their way to other paths to perform similar rituals.

A random picture - notice the red dot towards the right? That's the burning of paper money by another group. Yes, i noticed an orb on the left even though i am no longer convinced they are spirits or souls.

To be totally frank, the scene right in front of me then was spectacular with a touch of mysticism; a sight that was drastically different from the daytime. 

The lit candles helped greatly in creating the effect. A better camera and a more professional photographer would however capture a view that takes your breath away.

One of my many failed attempts to take a photograph of Alex with tombstones in the background. 

We were totally at ease! We were more frightened by the high likelihood of hearing the "crunch" sound; there were so many snails crawling on the cemetery grounds!

Dua Yah Peh making his rounds. He would sit on tombstones without any reservation and answer questions posed by his devotees. Guess what is the most common question?

4D numbers lah! Actually, i would have asked for TOTO numbers since the payout for 4D was such a pittance compared to the million-dollar TOTO prize! 

Yet another random picture! Don't think too much, there is absolutely no shocking paranormal element! 

What shocked me more was the sight of a bus (circled in the picture) charging along the pathway! It reminded me so much of a True Singapore Ghost Story that spoke of a bus that ferried the dead. Alex managed to speak to the bus driver; the poor man had lost his way! haha

This appeared almost like souls leaving the bodies; a camera trick easily performed by adjusting the shutter speed. So never trust photographs 100%; always trust your own eyes. That happened to me a few years ago, remember?

Many friends who knew i participated in this 'adventure' often questioned if the possession is real. 

Truth is, i don't know. I am a skeptical person by nature and it would be hard to convince me although i have to emphasise we should always respect and never put down other religions despite the reservations we might have. 

What i saw was a person, supposedly possessed by a deity, who was able to drink bottle after bottle of hard liquor, can after can of Guinness Stout and puff stick after stuck of cigarette; sometimes two or more at one go. Again, i do believe such 'skills' can be trained over time.

At this point, we had stayed in the cemetery for over two hours. I would have participated till the very end but Alex insisted on going back to settle his property matters! 

Sad :(

Lastly, A BIG BIG THANK YOU to staff of 忠雲壇 and special thanks to the above auntie who brought along a damn powerful LED torch that provided the necessary illumination for most of the pictures! 

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Want to experience the same as i did? The Ghost Month in 2013 is until 04 September, so you might want to consider checking out the cemeteries at night during this period. Good luck. :)

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