Yesterday night, which is the eighth, I went down to Lor Koo Chye temple after my rehearsals as I had arranged with my parents to meet there to pray to the Heavenly Deity. The ceremony was supposed to take place at twelve midnight exactly, so we had to get there early to "book" a place on the offerings altars provided by the temple management. This was the second time we pray at the temple, as my parents felt that it was more convenient as they could skip some tedious preparation works. Actually to me it wasn't much of a difference, because the amount of things to buy and prepare and about the same.
The moment I stepped down from my bike, I saw my parents' car zooming past me; what a coincidence! It was barely a quarter past nine, still too early for the prayers. Therefore, after laying out all our offerings on the offering altar, I went straight to the backyard of the temple, whereby a Hokkien opera was being staged.
This year, the temple invited Wei Shann Taiwanese Opera to perform for the Lunar New Year period. Wei Shann is a Taiwanese Opera troupe from Tainan county of Taiwan, more famous for their "oh-pe-la" (fantasy-styled Chinese opera) and street shows. Years ago I've seen their theatrical performance when they came to Singapore, and I didn't quite like it. I felt that they were not good at all back then, but this time round, I think their performance was acceptable. Not that they'd improved dramatically; they still have fanciful glittery and feathery costumes, strong doses of synthesizers and western band percussions as well as flying stunts. However, I felt that for opera performances in such temple fairs, one cannot expect too artistic productions as in theatrical productions. Therefore, although I may think their performances yesterday was still not too bad, I certainly do not expect the same standard when they perform in theatres! On a side note, I find it a pity that quite a few of their actresses did not sing well.
The opera show ended at 11.30pm, and after taking a short break, the troupe performed a religious "Ban Xian" show on stage. This "Ban Xian" show is a must for temple performances, with it's main aim to thank the Gods for the good year that had gone by, as well as to giving blessings to the worshippers. The "Ban Xian" show ended at 12 midnight, and I headed straight to the courtyard of the temple where my parents were still waiting for me.
The courtyard was already full of worshippers, each holding joss sticks in their hands. I started to feel uncomfortable, as my eyes are sensitive to the smoke emitted from joss sticks. Shortly after, the taoist priests appeared and starting chanting scriptures. Lor Koo Chye temple has got Lord Cheng Huang as the temple's anchor God, and since Lord Cheng Huang originates from Qingxi county (present-day Quanzhou), the religious ceremony was very Hokkien in flavour, and the priests were riciting in typical Quanzhou accent (but not as strong). After the ceremony was completed, we started to burn our incense paper. This is the part which I felt very troublesome. Not that I have anything against this, but the incense chamber has got only 3 to 4 slots, and I had to queue and wait for my turn to use, with the heavy pile of incense paper in my hands. So it seemed to me that praying at home is actually more convenient for me, as we don't have to go through the hassle of fighting over the buring chamber with other worshippers!
By the time we finished buring all our incense paper, it was close to 1am. The crowd at the temple was much lesser now, but there was still quite a number of people praying, and the priests were still chanting scriptures. My father said it was fine to leave, and hence we packed up our remaining offerings, load them back into the car and headed home...