Hokkien New Year Celebrations – Bai Ti Kong

Although I’m not a believer in this stuff, I think it is important for my boys to learn and understand their own culture. They may or may not choose to follow it, but they should know about it because it is a part of their heritage and history.

About Bai Ti Kong

Pai Ti Kong is celebrated on the 9th day of the first month of Lunar calendar. It is a festival of particular significant to Hokkien people (subgroup of Chinese) because it is the birthday of the Jade Emperor (Thien Kong) who protected the Hokkien people from being massacred. The Hokkien people were saved by hiding in a sugarcane plantation (believed to be provided by the Jade Emperor) on the 8th – 9th days of Lunar New Year. As thanksgiving to the Jade Emperor, the Hokkien people offer prayers to him on the 9th day.

The Story of Bai Ti Kong

“…during the 16th century. It was a time when ships abound and there were pirates operating on the east coast of China. On a Chinese New Year during that era, the pirates were raiding the east coast of Fujian Province. These pirates invaded the east coast from all direction and killed everybody who they came across.

The inhabitants felt so hopeless and were just about to give up, when suddenly, a sugarcane farm suddenly appeared in front of them. They were all saved by keeping themselves hidden in the sugarcane farm. That day was the 9th of the first lunar month. Again, the survivors believed that this was because they had help from the Jade Emperor. In order to present their faithfulness to the Jade Emperor, the Hokkiens started the practice of celebrating on the 9th day of the first lunar month with sugarcane.” – The Daily Brunei Resources

G1 made the following video to tell the story of Bai Ti Kong:

Celebrating Bai Ti Kong

For us, the prayers begin at midnight after the 8th day of Chinese New Year. I have heard other houses beginning the evening’s festivities with lion dances much earlier. Before that, we spend the day preparing the offering food – usually Mi Ku, fruits, “bee koh” rice pudding, ang ku, nian gao “new year cake”, and other stuff I don’t know the names of.

Pai Ti Kong

An altar table covered with a red table cloth and the food is laid out as an offering to the Jade Emperor. Of particular significance is the pair of sugar cane stalks that are attached to the altar. I have always believed this was because the Hokkiens hid in a sugar cane plantation to avoid the massacre but apparently the word for sugar cane is a close homonym to the word for “thank you” in Hokkien.

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Also particularly relevant are the piles of gold paper folded into the old-style shape of money that are burnt as a thanksgiving offering to the Jade Emperor.

Pai Ti Kong

After everything has been burnt, the ceremony is concluded with fireworks to scare away evil spirits.

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