The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is a nine day long festival that is held from the 1st to the 9th day of the ninth Lunar month, in accordance with the Chinese calendar. Numerous versions of the story of the Nine Emperor Gods exist, with each community and temple differing from each another. According to an early written account, however, the festival of the Nine Emperor Gods dates back to the end of the Han dynasty.
According to this account, the reigning emperor was once suspicious of a Taoist magician, who was using charms and talismans to cure the ill, earning a great amount of wealth in the process. To teach him a lesson, the emperor ordered nine scholar-musicians to hide in a secret room where they would, at his command, begin to conjure sinister music with their instruments. This was to happen upon his invitation of the magician into the palace.
The magician, upon the request of the emperor, was then told remove the ‘evil spirits’ from the palace. When the magician saw the musicians through his magic fan, he gave a chop with his magic sword, and all nine musicians were beheaded.
The emperor, fearful that the vengeful spirits would come after him, ordered the heads to be buried in a vase before it was sealed with talismans and prayers to prevent the spirits from escaping. It was then thrown into the sea. But it wasn’t for long that the emperor began to dream repeatedly of the nine, bloodied ghosts of the musicians, asking him to canonise them as the ‘Nine Emperor Gods’.
Terrified, the emperor agreed.
Story publish on Rice Media, 11th October 2018.