Penangites will began to set up sheds which are dedicated to Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) every July of the Lunar calendar, which known as Ghost Festival. In this month, you can see the stages everywhere on the street to have Chinese opera performances, puppet shows and kotai (stage show) to entertain the community and wandering spirits during the annual festival. There are joss sticks and joss papers on the street and the air exudes the smell of joss stick. Since Penang is the state in Malaysia that has the largest number of Chinese, the celebration of Chinese festival is grand and rigorous. If you want to see the Ghost Festival, just walk around Lebuh China. Suppose you have time, you may want to go to Bukit Mertajam to see the tallest Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy in Penang!
The Ghost Festival which falls on the Lunar calendar on July 15 th also called as Yulan Festival. Ghost Festival is a festival of filial piety and respect for the elderly, worship ingenuity of the ghost to pray for peace and prosperity. Therefore, the believers believe that they have to pray in their home, shops and workplaces if they wish to have a peace and
prosperity year. Penang Ghost Festival Celebration can be traced back to 150 years ago, in the 80’s or earlier before, the Ghost Festival celebration are quite lively, about 200 blocks worship this festival for 20 to 30 days. It can be seen many stages have been set up, performing various puppet shows or Chinese opera, while the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy will be placed in the shed.
The Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) is responsible to manage all the spirits and the believers believe that he will maintain civil order during the festival, not to let the dead spirit disorderly, disturb the folk. Therefore, in addition to worshipping their ancestors, believers will also worship the lone ghosts on the roadside, hoping that “they” will not disturb the folk after “they” enjoy the foods and receive the money.
In Penang, the Yulan Association of Bukit Mertajam is famous for its lively celebration. The residents celebrate Ghost Festival since 1964, the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy is only 6 feet tall during that time. Until today, the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy has been increased to 27 feet 7 inches tall!
The Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy will be placed in the temple at Bukit Mertajam since the 1 st day of the 7 th month of the lunar calendar. After the ceremony, they began a 15-day celebration and then burn the the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy and joss paper during July 15 of lunar calendar at 10 pm to send the lord back.
On that night, the local residents will hold the joss stick, then piled all the offerings on the street together with the Tai Su Yeah (King of Hades) effigy. The event often attracts visitors from local and abroad to experience the celebration..
The Chinese people in Penang have celebrated the Ghost Festival for a hundred years, so the Penang government intends to apply to UNESCO for intangible cultural heritage, which is not only a recognition of Penang, but also preserves the worship and culture of the Ghost Festival for thousands of years.
Pek Kong Cheng
Address: Jalan Pasar, 14000 Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang.
Address: Lebuh China, George Town, 10200 George Town Penang.