Malacca – and here’s Jack Chia!

Oh where to begin with the Malacca stories?  Let’s just say that Malacca was one of my favorite parts of life in Singapore. One easy five hour bus ride, and you’re in one of the most charming cities in the world.

So, when my schedule had me in Singapore in late November, and Macao in mid-December, I decided to come and stay here and work on my book for the two weeks in between. Cheaper than flying back to Australia, and a heck of a lot more interesting.

Case in point – Jack.

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Here’s me with Jack Chia, one of my former students from NUS who is currently tearing it up in the PhD program in Cornell. On my first night in Malacca,I saw Jack on Skype and we both discovered that we were both in Asia, in Malaysia, in Malacca, and as it turns out, staying about two blocks away from each other. Jack was in Malacca looking at some sources about a Buddhist monk who went back and forth between Malaysia and China. It was great to see him after something like four years, and just to show you that fate doesn’t know when to stop, one night while we were having dinner at a street stall, we heard firecrackers ad then someone off in the distance striking a big drum. That kind of sound at night can only mean one thing.

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Yes, the temple just fifty meters away was hosting a spirit medium who was in trance giving some stern instructions to the temple committee. We stuck around for about a half hour and then left. Jack went back to Singapore the next day, but I went back to visit the temple as festivities continued over the next two days. I’ll post proper pictures of those two days once I get a chance to edit the video into something nice, but here are some pics of the first evening.

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The temple is really interesting – I later found out that the deity (named Wenfuwang 溫父王) is one of the five brothers: another one is in the Leizhou huiguan (interestingly, the deity you can see from the street looks like Guanyin, I’m guessing the brother must be somewhere inside). Another deity is in a temple near the Hotel Equatorial, and a fourth lives somewhere out of town. The fifth brother lives in the ocean, since he is hot tempered, and therefore not suitable for temple life. On the 15th of the first lunar month, the four brothers are taken in procession to see the fifth. Besides the processions, there is a ritual involving large boat, which gets burned at sea.

Now that’s something worth coming back to see.

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