Keng Chek Festival - Malaysia

The general toss up as to who founded Kuala Lumpur is between the two greats who came in search of the same dream - riches in tin. Raja Abdullah, a local ruler, was the first to bring in Chinese coolies to mine the rich deposits in Ampang. Yap Ah Loy, who was really not the 1 st Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur but the 3 rd, has been considered as one who founded Kuala Lumpur. What Yap Ah Loy did was that he built Kuala Lumpur from a small shanty settlement into a bustling town by borrowing loans from the British, from Singapore and even from Banks and other creditors to keep the town afloat as tin prices plunged in the world market. Then as he would have it with miners luck .the turn of events in Europe skyrocketed tin prices and he became rich beyond means. He ploughed much of his profits from his many tin mines around the area back into his settlement. So successful was his plan, it attracted more Chinese immigrants, Malays and Javanese and even the British, who could no longer ignore the growth and prosperity of the town. The British eventually moved their entire state government' administrative centre from Klang to KL in 1880.

A year later, a raging fire swept through the entire Chinese settlement. Fires and floods were pretty normal occurrences then . Yap Ah Loy wasted no time in rebuilding the new settlement with which the British government helped by giving him 17½ acres of land divided into lots . The triangular plot in front of Bangkok Bank is the nucleus of the new settlement . called Em Chi Tang or The 5 lampposts.

Yap Ah Loy's house was built where Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank is currently located. Just a stone's throw away from HSBC is the only physical evidence of the existence of once such an influential man .at the temple that he built.

Sin Sze Si Ya Temple

The original temple was built in 1864 to house the ashes of Yap Ah Loy's old friend and revered leader, Kapitan Seng who was killed in an earlier battle in Negri Sembilan. Chinese immigrants. far away from their families and uncertain of their future needed a place of solace and belief, and the temple provided that. The deities, Sin Sze Ya and Sze Ya were regarded as Guardians of the miners and the Sin Si Sze Ya temples, of which there are 13 in the country, are always situated by rivers to watch over the safety of travellers who used the river as a main transportation way. It is difficult to envisage the true location of this temple as it was then. When the temple was sited in its original location, a sloping bank ran all the way up to its doorsteps. Later, the British authorities moved to reclaim the land, and development obstructed the temples view of the river.

365days of the year, a constant stream of devotees come to this rather obscure temple for many reasons. Today, we're here on a most auspicious day called, the ' Keng Chek' or 'Ta Siu Yan' which generally means 'getting rid of enemies'. This particular ritual is not in that respect a religious ceremony as such but more of a custom.

Ta Siu Yan or Keng Chek was practised by farmers in old China long before Taoism or Buddhism or Confucianism became part of their lives. This is ceremony is normally conducted just after Chinese New Year. The old ritual began as an observation of change of seasons from winter to spring and the beginning of the year's planting of crops. It was believed that on this 6 th day of the season, the Chin Tze Spring Thunder.. booms, awakening all the animals from their deep hibernation. The most powerful representation of nature and all its being is the White Tiger. As it awakened, farmers gave offerings of pork and duck eggs to appease the beast but in return, they also asked for favours. Their favours were believed to be granted most willingly when the tiger awakens and is at its hungriest.

And so, they wait and they calculate the optimum time using the lunar calendar calculations. The 'Tong Seng' or the Chinese Almanac calculates to the actual time and day of change in season. The farmers eagerly placed their offerings at the alters and prayed to be rid of their enemies or anything that would hold them back from reaping the year's profits.

On this auspicious day, crowds throng the place as early as 6am. A number of temple volunteers and helpers are ever ready to help those who are at a loss to how to go about things. Firstly, a stack of jossticks, paper effigies and candles are bought at the counter. A session of prayer to all deities in the temple are performed and then a final appeasing of the tiger is carried out. The temple helper will guide you through a process where two eggs and a piece of pork are used to rub the tiger's mouth. Whilst all this is happening, the helper chants to the tiger. After that the fun part begins. There are several paper effigies with different representations provided in the package. The shape of a hand are for enemies who has done you physical harm. The effigy of a bird are for those who have been talking behind your back, the form of a person is for anyone who has done harm in any way to you and the effigy of chains are those that are preventing you from forging a head with your life. One way of ridding yourself from these enemies is to..whack them with your slipper or shoe and whilst doing that, the person's name or the bad thing has happened to you, must be mentioned. In the old days, an alternative tool was a pair of clogs!

Once that has been satisfied, the paper effigies are thrown into the fire and then all the burden and bad joss will be burnt. There's one last thing to do, the Kway Yan Lok Mah (2 effigies depict your guardian angel riding on a green horse that will take you higher to your aspirations). Glue them together, and stick them as high as possible on a designated wall. The higher you place it on the wall .the higher your aspirations will go.