Chinese Belief or Plain Stupidity?

Last night I had the experience of my life. At the stroke of midnight, me and a couple of friends took a long and bouncy drive into the woody depths of Balik Pulau, past the cold hills, winding roads, stony grounds and some fair amount of suppressed reluctance on my part, to consult a chinese Taiost Bomoh (Bomoh is malay for witchdoctor) who resides by the mountains. Well,i believe that these people have to live somewhere secluded and run-down, away from civilisation, preferably in some god-forsaken hell-hole so that when visitors travel the distance, they are inevitably led to feel a sense of weird awe, pounding rhytmns of anticipation which instil the rather silly belief that God must live there.

One hour later, we arrived at this dark eerie place beside the cold mountains, the only sound we could hear were the night crickets and the only lights which guided our trembling steps were the dim red and blue lights hanging in the temple. Then my friends (i opted to play the observer role) had to perform some rituals of serving incense and praying to about 15 taoist deities which took the form of various animals and weird creepy creatures like a dog, a green doll, monkey, tiger, sword-yielding little men and some creatures which my limited vocabulary fails to describe. The only thing they all have in common is that they look creepy, fierce and hellish.Then my friend came to gave a brief intro; the main Deities which dwelt there was Tua Ah Pek and Jee Ah Pek(Hokkien for Big Brother And Second Brother) who are the two righthand men of the King of Hell. The statues of them both were extremely ghoulish and fiercely imposing. Their long thick bloody tounges hung to their bony chest and their faces are black and white. They were dressed in dirty rags and the smoke that rose from the incense and the dim red lights only served to eerify(is that a word?) their appearances. The aforementioned weird creepy animal-like creatures lined the temple left and right, kind of flanking andf hailing the Tua Ah Pek And Jee Ah Pek who sat princely in the middle of the hall. Since Tua Ah Pek and Jee Ah Pek are the Chief Guardians of The Underworld , second in line after Satan himself, they must look the part and for me they gain a lot of points in the looks department.  

My friends went there to consult on their personal problems like health, luck and love. A shirtless skinny middle-aged man there then went into a trance, supposedly the Tua Ah Pek possessed his body to heal my friends. Then they all sat at the altar with the middle-aged man who has become Tua Ah Pek. He had now dressed himself in a long hat and a flowing white robe and shaking profusely while chanting. The consultation took place. Most of their problems were said to be caused by 'bad luck' and Tua Ah Pek jotted down their problems on a piece of red paper each and they were instructed to go into the open and repeatedly beat the red paper with their sandals while chanting 'I hit you, siau ren' (siau ren in mandarin for little men which means bad luck).

After that, comes the payment session. Of course, there were a million small coin boxes, all painted in red and decorated in the most elaborate lighting. The worker aunty(a healed volunteer i guess) guided my friends to each of the coinbox and told them to 'sui yen' (mandarin for give as much as u are willing to, no pressure). Not only coins in boxes, each were to give money in a red packet.

Mmy friend who has weakness in his right hand were told to rub his hand with a piece of 'gold paper' because apparently by doing so repeatedly could rub the weakness away (a chiropractor's nightmare) Then he asked the friend to go out and kneel towards the open night sky and he started to chant in a 'heavenly' language that we were not supposed to understand. The weirdest thing of it all is that the man in trance possessed by Tua Ah Pek could not walk but hopped around like the vampires you see in old Chinese movies. They all left  with a packet of plastic bag each containing some red paper, gold paper and a golden ball supposedly to give them luck and shun the devil.

I wish I had captured some pictures of the whole affair but I was too frozen and appalled to do anything. but i managed to google some pictures of Tua Ah Pek and Jee Ah Pek's statues and a trance session.

(Top row pics are Tua Ah Pek and Jee Ah Pek, the long-tongued guardians of hell. The black and white pic is Tua Ah Pek in a trance. The fourth pic - black creature is one of the legion of creatures of Hell, not Oprah Winfrey)

Im all for the freedom of religion but if it is stupidity and greed cloaked in the long robes of religion, then at least someone has to make a laugh out of it and point out the obvious.

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