Nine Gods

The Nine Emperor Gods are the sons of Father Emperor Zhou Yu Dou Fu Yuan Jun (斗父周御國王天尊) and the North Star Dou Mu Yuan Jun (斗母元君).

They are the seven (visible) stars that make up the Big Dipper, plus another two (invisible) ‘assistant’ stars.

The Nine Emperor Gods are often wrongly conflated with folk heroes like the sea pirates of the Ming dynasty who plotted to overthrow the Qing dynasty. They are actually high ranking Star Lords who preside over the movement of planets and coordinate mortal Life and Death issues.

Their parents, Dou Fu and Dou Mu, hold the Registrar of Life and Death.

The festival for the Emperor Gods lasts nine days, from the eve of the ninth lunar month.

A couple of years ago, when I was on one of my wanders around George Town, Penang, I came across a part of town flying yellow banners as there was a temple there dedicated to the nine gods. That visit was a rainy one and apparently it tends to rain a lot during the Emperor Gods festival. Here’s the boat that would have been carried in a procession to the sea at the climax of the festival:


During that visit I also visited the Lee Clan Jetty and saw this offering and flag at the end of the walkway:


I’ve been planning to go back to witness the procession at the end of the festival, but life has got in the way and, this year, Covid-19.

There is a temple (Kau Ong Ya) dedicated to the nine gods in Ampang (just on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur city centre), but I have never got around to going for the festival although I did visit once, on a Datuk Gong hunting expedition. If I can find the pictures I took, I will post them.

28th September, 2020: Found a pic I took of the Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Pekan Ampang …


This year’s festival begins on the evening of 17th October and ends on the evening of 25th October.

The Teacher


Laozi (老子) or Laotzu was the philosopher said to be the author of the Daode jing (道德經), the fundamental text for the religion and philosophy of Daoism; the founder of philosophical Daoism and a deity in religious Daoism and Chinese traditional religions.

We don’t know if he really existed, but there are theories that say that he was teacher to Confucius. That, however, would have placed Laozi in the sixth century (BCE), whereas there exists a first century (BCE) version of the Daode jing.

One theory suggests that the Daode jing is a collection of sayings, compiled over several centuries, and that one of its authors is a teacher referred to naturally as Laozi, meaning ‘Old Master’.

Laozi’s personal name is said to be either Li Er (李耳) or Li Dan (李聃). Claimed by the Tang Dynasty emperors as the founder of their lineage, the sage was granted the title ‘Supremely Mysterious and Primordial Emperor’ or Taishang Xuanyuan Huangdi (太上玄元皇帝).

As a deity and religious personage, Laozi is known as the ‘Supreme Old Lord’ or Taishang Laojun (太上老君) and one of the Three Pure Ones.