PENANG, MALAYSIA - The country's economy will be slightly slower than the previous year, according to the predictions of Tua Pek Kong or God of Prosperity.
The deity had predicted during the annual Chneah Hoay (flame-watching) ceremony here at the Hai Choo Soo (Sea Pearl) Temple in Tanjung Tokong that the country's economy would be slow during the first four months of the lunar year (Feb 7 to June 3).
However, it is expected to pick up during the second third (June 4 to Sept 28).
The ceremony on the eve of Chap Goh Meh last night was the 118th Chneah Hoay at the temple.
The turnout was, unexpectedly, lower than in previous years but there were still hundreds, mostly businessmen, thronging the seafront temple to witness the ceremony.
It is believed that the deity could foretell the country's economy for the Chinese lunar year, through the flames from some 60 burning joss sticks.
The prediction is based on the height and intensity of the flames, and the speed with which the embers in the deity's urn flare up.
The embers were fanned in three stages - once each for every four months of the lunar year.
The ceremony, which lasted about 15 minutes, began at 11.55pm.
Lights, candles and oil lamps were put off to enable the Poh Hock Seah Temple committee members to scrutinise the flames for prediction.
Poh Hock Seah Temple president Datuk Lim Chooi Beng said embers from the burning joss sticks ignited after about nine minutes of the first fanning, signifying that the economy was slow in taking off.
"The second fanning took about two minutes while the last was only a minute, showing that the economy will be improving from mid-year onwards," he said.
Advising the public to not panic, he said Chneah Hoay is only a religious ritual and the results merely a prediction.