Travel Notes - Putuo Village
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Another week, another adventure, another post of travel notes. Well, if I have to be honest this trip that, I'm going to share happened prior to the Dessaru Farm one, and it actually happened about a month ago, but let's ignore these little details and dive into another Malaysia adventure.
This time, I invite you to join me in exploring Putuo Village. Located in Johor area, Putuo village is a serene and scenic place rich in Buddhism essence and cultural elements. What makes this place even more magical is a lush bamboo forest which is about 5 minutes walk from the main Buddhist temple. As their website presents it, the place is filled with devotees' faith, Buddhism tradition, history and legends.
Once arrived, you are invited to enter the main temple, the entrance of which is through a little bridge over a river that surrounds the sacred place. Of course, you are asked to take off your shoes as a respect to the sanctuary and saints. Entering you are greeted by a magnificent hall and a Guanyin Statue. Legend says the bamboo forest is the place where Guan Yin meditates. With this impression, Putuo Village is built as a unique cultural village to exhibit the splendour of Buddhism arts and stories, to attract tourists with a unique element of discovering culture and immersing in nature.
Here, for the first time, a tried a special Buddhist ritual, called Kau Chim or Kau Cim, also known as Lottery poetry. This is a fortune-telling practice that originated in China in which the querent (person asking the question) requests answers from a sacred oracle lot. The practice begins with taking a cup storing a number of fortune sticks and kneeling in front of the altar. Holding the cup between your palms you have to ask a question that's on your mind, or you wish to have an answer to. You ask the deity, either aloud or by whispering. You have to be decisive and not shift from one question to another. When ready, you begin shaking of the cylinder/cup, which is usually tipped slightly downward. The result of this motion is in at least one stick leaving the cylinder and being dropped onto the floor. In most cases, if multiple sticks leave the cylinder, those fortunes do not count and must be shaken again. Each stick, with its designated number, represents one answer from the 100 written oracles.
The writing on the piece of paper will provide an answer to the question. In most cases, to confirm the validity of the answer given by the deity, you will pick up and toss two jiaobei blocks. Each block is round on one side and flat on the other. A successful answer requires one flat and one round side to be facing up, a failed answer will result in two round sides facing up. Much emphasis is placed on denial when both sides flat are tossed; some legends say when this happens, the deities are laughing at the querent. You will have the option to ask for a fortune again until a successful answer can be made.
Usually, those oracles are written in Chinese, which for a foreigner is difficult not only to read but to interpret as well. Fortunately, there is always a temple priest who would volunteer to clarify the writing and its meaning.
Enchanting! Once you are out of the temple, the village offers other points of interest-prayer wheel corridor, exterior shrine, medicine altar, buddha bathing pavilion, 3 steps 1 bow lotus trail, wish-fulfilling tree, feeding pond, cafe and the bamboo forest.
Although I didn't do the 3 steps 1 bow ceremony, walking along the lotus trail was another enlightening and very mindful experience. The ground is covered in tiles, which are laid in a pattern of square blocks with engraved lotus flower shapes and writing, that I could not read. All of this happens under a canopy of colourful flags, held above the trail.
The bamboo forest was quite special too, my favourite part of it was, of course, a bamboo swing. (I might have let the inner child go wild here.) A very very special place, indeed! More stars and golden points for Malaysia!