A leg of the centipede


In Latin, centi means hundred and pedere means foot. It is known that centipedes are mostly nocturnal. Nocturnality is a behavior of being active during the night. As you can see in this Google + Auto Awesome photo, people from all walks of life, domestic and abroad, walks from right to left and vice versa. As night come, this place become more active. This place see a crossroad leading to the Masjid Tanjong Kling to be met by another crossroad after this photo dimension. Before this two dimension photo, the crossroad connect Jonker Walk to the millionaires’ row.

If we moved some distance upward in height to a certain altitude, we would see the shaped of a centipede (or Wu Gong Sha 蜈蚣煞) constructed by the roads and the lanes within this part of the old town. As the older folks become fewer, the younger ones might not aware that there was a saying that based on geomancy or feng shui which is a method of divination interpreting markings on the ground, a small statue of a cockerel was fixed on top of a structure within the Dutch Square during the colonial period to watch over the ‘centipede’. I just heard about this old folks tale at a cafe last week in Jonker Walk. Although this is the first time I hear that the roads and lanes formed the figure of a centipede, I could clearly remember I saw the cockerel within the Dutch Square when I was a boy. I have got to check it out to see whether the cockerel is still there today. 

During the Year of the Dragon, a vibrant dragon replica was floated above the crossroad landmarked by San Shu Gong and the Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball on the right and the former OBCB office and the former Tan Tian Tiok solicitor office. There was a Chinese legend that revealed the Rooster’s (Cockerel) laments.
The Chinese has the twelve almanac to complete the calendar. Each animals liked to be chosen when the Jade Emperor announced that he will name each of the 12 years after one animal. The dragon promised to make the centipede powerful and quick if centipede would get the Rooster’s beautiful headdress for him. When centipede managed to borrow the Cockerel’s crown for the Dragon, the dragon bestowed on centipede with many legs and stingers in his jaws. Dragon was selected by the Jade Emperor before the Rooster, and the list goes like this … 1st Rat, 2nd Ox, 3rd Tiger, 4th Rabbit, 5th Dragon, 6th Snake, 7th Horse, 8th Ram, 9th Monkey, 10th Dog, 11th Rooster and the 12th Pig.

The Cockerel felt that he should be chosen before the Dragon because the Cockerel’s crown made Dragon the 5th in position. The cockerel see the centipede and showed anger but the centipede slipped under a rock when the cockerel was charging. Though centipede is powerful and can sting the cockerel, he remember the Dragon’s advice of being modest. The Cockerel flew to the heavens to join the others 11, the Jade Emperor decreed the 12 would hang in the heavens forever.

Symbolism is an important aspect in feng shui and the Chinese use symbols of flowers, birds, animals excetera for various purposes since historical times. I wonder why the Jonker Walk Committee did not put up a Snake replica last year nor they put up a Horse replica this year.
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