Pai Ti Kong Hokkien Festival

Many years ago, large numbers of Hokkien Chinese immigrated to George Town, Penang. As a result, in George Town, Hokkien holiday celebrations such as Pai Ti Kong are the center of attention on the 9th day of the Chinese New Year.

Annually starting at 11PM the Hokkiens gather at Chew Jetty on Pengkalan Weld and pray to the Jade Emperor. However, this form of praying involves offering fires and gratuitous fireworks that light up the night. The festival is a primary component of Spring festival celebrations in Penang and is an attraction well worth seeing.

Jade Emperor Offering Table 2017
The Jade Emperor’s offering table seen at Chew Jetty during Pai Ti Kong Celebrations in George Town Penang 2017. This is where devotees make their offerings and prayers to the Jade Emperor. The crowd is anticipating the imminent arrival of the Penang Chief Minister – Lim Guan Eng.

History of Pai Ti Kong

The Jade Emperor is also known as the “God of Heaven” and is included in the Daoist Pantheon. Indeed, the Jade Emperor’s birthday falls on the 9th day of the Chinese New Year (CNY).

On this day in ancient China the Hokkiens were under attack by Mongol invaders. In order to avert a massacre, the Hokkiens hid in a sugarcane field on the 8th and 9th day of CNY. As a result, the massacre was averted and Hokkiens are eternally grateful to the Jade Emperor! Every year the Pai Ti Kong festival is celebrated by Hokkien communities worldwide.

Kek Lok Si Temple
Don’t miss Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam.

Jade Emperor’s Table at Pai Ti Kong

Annually at Chew Jetty the Hokkien community sets a huge table loaded with traditional delicacies for the Jade Emperor. The emperor sits at one end of the table and at the other end is where Hokkiens gather to pray to the the God of Heaven. This includes the Penang Chief Minister who attends the festival every year.

Jade Emperor at Chew Jetty - Pai Ti Kong Festival Penang Malaysia
A statue of the Jade Emperor sits at the head of the offering table at Chew Jetties during the annual Pai Ti Kong celebrations in George Town, Penang. The prayers and offerings are made at the far end of the table opposite the statue.
Penang Chief Minister arrives at Chew Jetties
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng arrives at Chew Jetty to pay tribute to the Jade Emperor. He attends the Pai Ti Kong Festival annually to make prayers and offerings to the Jade Emperor.

Kim Cua Offering Fires, Incense & Fireworks

Pai Ti Kong festival celebrations include setting offering fires ablaze in honor of the God of Heaven. These offering fires consist of large piles of folded pieces of gold paper known as kim cua. As a symbolic gesture of thanks to the Jade Emperor, the kim cua are first tied to stalks of sugar cane where they hang in tribute. Then on the night of the festival they are taken down and placed in large piles to be set ablaze.

Furthermore, sugarcane is highly symbolic during the festival because it served as the hiding place for the Hokkiens during the invasion. Additionally, the Hokkien word for sugarcane is a homonym for thank you in Hokkien dialect. After the kim cua is set ablaze, then 2 stalks of sugarcane are also added to the fire.

Kim Cua fires burn bright at Chew Jetties in George Town Penang
Kim Cua Offering Fires at Pai Ti Kong festival near Chew Jetty in George Town, Penang.

Giant sticks of incense also burn throughout the night in honor of the Hokkien God of Heaven’s birthday. Additionally, gratuitous fireworks displays were going off all night long.

Giant Incense sticks at Chew Jetty Pai Ti Kong Festival
Giant Incense Sticks at the entrance to Chew Jetty in George Town, Malaysia.

Chew Jetty in George Town, Penang

The Chew Jetty is open to visitors throughout the celebration. Therefore, the shops are also open offering ice cream and souvenirs. Additionally, the end of the jetty is a good place to find a bit of peace and quiet during the best Penang festivals. The night view of Penang harbor is very serene during CNY.

Chew Jetty George Town Penang 2017
The quiet end of Chew Jetty during Pai Ti Kong Festival in George Town Penang 2017