Do you have Bai Tian Gong on the ninth day of the Lunar New Year?
Bai Tian Gong means to pray to the gods. Bai (Bai) means prayer, and Tian Gong (Tian Gong) refers to the Jade Emperor, the ruler of all gods in the sky. Therefore, pray to Tian Gong, or what Hokkien likes to call “pai ti kong”.
The prayer ceremony is to thank the Jade Emperor for protecting the Fujian people from the bandit massacre. The ancient Hokkien people believed that the Jade Emperor rescued them from their troubles, which is why the Hokkien people celebrate BAITIANGONG. Also, sugar cane is commemorated as it hid and kept safe from bandits when they searched for sugar cane. In the Hokkien dialect, sugar cane is pronounced: “Kam Jia”, which sounds familiar to “Kam Xia” (a word for gratitude). Therefore, during the Fujian Lunar New Year, sugarcane stalks are usually placed on both sides of the altar or the front door of the house. This symbolizes the gratitude of the Hokkien people to the Jade Emperor for protecting their ancestors and hopes that the Jade Emperor will continue to bless them.
However, according to the day when the villagers learned that he was saved, and the birthday of the Jade Emperor, Bai Tian Gong’s day is set on the ninth day of the Lunar New Year. Preparations would be much earlier than this, with Hokkien families setting up the offering table, appropriately draped in red to signify prosperity, and offering plentiful food offerings to the Jade Emperor. There are no hard and fast rules to follow when choosing what to offer as an offering, as long as it is done out of sincere faith and gratitude.
In addition to food, the table is also decorated with various blessing items, such as incense, joss sticks, and a paper shrine to the Jade Emperor. Families also often fold gold paper into “Yuanbao”, because gold paper is considered spiritual money, whether it is in the underworld or heaven, it is generally accepted, and “Yuanbao” is the currency used in the Yuan Dynasty.
Sugarcane is most prominent in Hokkien celebrations. Generally speaking, sugar cane must be thick and straight, which symbolizes the sincerity and honesty of the Hokkien people. It is also important that the cane be equal in height and girth. These canes are hung with folded gold paper (Kim Cua), and on the day of the ceremony, the canes are burned as an offering to the Jade Emperor. Once these are burned, the family throws the cane stalks into the fire as well.
Indeed, the Bai Tian Gong is an integral celebration of Hokkien culture and very much embodies their spirit and gratitude to the Jade Emperor for protecting them in their time of need. Of course, although Bai Tian Gong originated from the Hokkien story, Chinese people all over Malaysia happily participated in the celebration, and each dialect group incorporated its customs and culture into it. The day is often accompanied by loud fireworks.