Spir­its of the Nine Em­peror Gods

All he wanted was a veg­e­tar­ian din­ner from a tem­ple in Alor Star, but got more than he bar­gained for

New Straits Times - - SUNDAY VIBES - Alan Teh Leam Seng

To my de­light, the duo skews their con­ver­sa­tion to­wards one of the lesser known myths re­lated to the ori­gin of this im­por­tant Chi­nese cel­e­bra­tion. Their ver­sion, dat­ing back to the Han dy­nasty, tells of a Taoist ma­gi­cian Zhang Daol­ing who gained fame by us­ing charms and tal­is­mans to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of vic­tims who sought his ser­vice. Zhang charged a stan­dard fee of five pecks of rice for each per­son who was cured.

The ma­gi­cian’s rem­edy was so ef­fec­tive that he soon be­came very wealthy and pow­er­ful. Zhang’s in­flu­ence grew so im­mense that he no longer both­ered to pay taxes to the Em­peror. At the same time, ru­mours be­gan to cir­cu­late say­ing that the pow­er­ful ma­gi­cian, with his in­depth knowl­edge of the dark arts, was the pri­mary source of the epi­demic plagu­ing the peo­ple. The ru­mour mon­gers al­leged A spirit medium hit­ting him­self with a club with iron spikes. that Zhang had pur­posely spread the ter­ri­ble disease to make the peo­ple turn to him for rem­edy.

News soon reached the ears of the Em­peror in the cap­i­tal. Fu­ri­ous at the ru­moured mis­deed, he sum­moned Zhang to the palace with the in­ten­tion of teach­ing him a les­son. Prior to the ma­gi­cian’s ar­rival, the Em­peror hid nine broth­erly scholar-mu­si­cians in the au­di­ence hall’s se­cret cham­ber and or­dered them to play eerie mu­sic as soon as an agreedupon sig­nal was given.

Ev­ery­thing went as planned and the Em­peror put on a good act, im­plor­ing Zhang to help ex­or­cise the spir­its that were caus­ing un­rest in his palace. The guards and courtiers present at the scene could hardly con­tain their ex­cite­ment as they were cer­tain that the ma­gi­cian would fail and be se­verely hu­mil­i­ated in the process.

Re­al­is­ing that it was a trap, Zhang kept his nerve and calmly sur­veyed the hall. Then, he un­folded his magic fan which im­me­di­ately re­vealed the po­si­tion of the hid­den mu­si­cians. The ma­gi­cian re­cited in­can­ta­tions and brought forth a pouch con­tain­ing rice and salt be­fore scat­ter­ing the con­tents on the floor. Fi­nally, Zhang wrote sev­eral en­chanted spells on the mix­ture us­ing his magic sword.

The mu­sic stopped as soon as the blade was lifted. Stunned by the chain of events, the Em­peror had no choice but to grant the tri­umphant ma­gi­cian leave. When opened, the se­cret cham­ber was a grue­some scene of life­less bod­ies and de­cap­i­tated heads.

Wor­ried that the spir­its of the dead schol­ars would re­turn to haunt him, the Em­peror or­dered the sev­ered heads to be in­terred in a large, wa­ter-tight earth­en­ware jar and thrown into the sea af­ter the re­cep­ta­cle was sealed with tal­is­manic pa­per charms to pre­vent the spir­its in­side from es­cap­ing.

Soon af­ter the in­ci­dent, the Em­peror be­gan hav­ing re­cur­ring night­mares where the headless ap­pari­tions of the nine schol­ars ap­peared in his bed cham­ber, ask­ing to be canon­ised as the Nine Em­peror Gods. The Em­peror, ea­ger to put an end to the ter­ri­ble episode, ac­ceded to their re­quest.

Sud­denly, without warn­ing, a mid­dle-aged man ap­pears, re­sult­ing in the story’s abrupt end. It seems the man is the women’s mu­tual friend. As they be­gin to en­thu­si­as­ti­cally dis­cuss their plans to par­take in the

A spirit medium deep in trance with a long skewer pierced through his cheeks.

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