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Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Ancient Gods, Rituals and Spirit-Mediumship of Folk Taoism in Modern Singapore

It's the start of the Month of the Hungry Ghosts!  The Taoists believe that, for the next one month, the Gates to Hell are open and the spirits are out for fun!
 
I have completed a new website about folk Taoism in Singapore and the incredibly bizarre and fascinating blood sacrifical and spirit possession rituals.  Yes, Taoist mediums and priests who believe and behave that they are possessed by gods and deities.   All these in modern Singapore.  I have in this website articles about these as well as numerous photos taken at various Taoist festivals in the last one year.
 
Have fun!  Here's the URL:   http://weecheng.com/singapore/tanki/index.htm
 
 
TANKI     The Ancient Gods, Rituals and Spirit-Mediumship of Folk Taoism in Modern Singapore

Tan Wee Cheng, Singapore   weecheng.com

   

In one of the most modern cities of the world, an ancient faith flourishes, with rituals involving gods, spirits, and their human mediums who glorify the powers of the gods through personal sacrifices.  This website contains a collection of articles and photos about one of the world's most unusual cultural and anthropological phenomena in a surprisingly modern and ordinary setting.

Why This Site: Statement of Objectives 

Background:   Folk Taoism in Southeast Asia   |  Divining Youth  |  Ceremonial Setting  |  The Ritual  |  The Sacrifice

Encounters:   Festival of the Nine Emperor Gods October 2003  |  Chuan Gong Dian - Chinatown 18 October 2003  |  Lin Hoon Din 凌云殿 - Geylang Lorong 27A June 2004  |  Xia Sheng Gong - Lengkok Bahru June 2004  |  Long Chuan Dian - Alexandra Rd 25 June 2004

Discussions:   Future of Folk Taoism in Singapore  |  Taoism as one of the Symbols of Indigenous Chinese Culture in Singapore  |  Awareness of Folk Taoism Among Singaporeans  |  Folk Taoism for Tourism

Links:   Chinese Deities Web - Calendar of Events Here |  SPI: Close Encounters with Tangki  |  Lorong Koo Chye Shen Hong Temple Association   |  Gods, Ghosts, & Ancestors: Folk Religion in a Taiwanese Village  |  A Medium's First Trance

Mailing Lists:  SingaporeHeritage - Devoted to the rich heritage of Singapore Taoism-Singapore - Taoism and traditional ceremonies in Singapore - Calendar of Events Here

Acknowledgements: A million thanks to them: Andi, Jave Wu, Victor Yue, Eng Teck 

 
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Folk Taoism in Southeast Asia

Chinese are commonly described as Buddhists or Taoists, although there are large number of Chinese Muslims and Christians in China as well as in the Overseas Chinese communities scattered across Southeast Asia and the rest of the world.  What is seldom said is that in the deep southern Chinese countryside as well as in Taiwan and Overseas Chinese communities worldwide, an ancient and mysterious faith prevails. 

That mysterious religion is the worship of spirits, gods and lesser deities, whose commands are transmitted through ordinary humans who act as messengers of gods.  This is variously called Shamanism, Shenism (after Shen, or gods in the Chinese language), Tankism (after Tanki, or mediums, in the Hokkien dialect, also known as Southern Fujian /Taiwanese dialect), spirit-mediumship or traditional Chinese religion. 

As I wrote in my essay on the Festival of the Nine Emperor Gods:

Southern China was once the land of the Min and Yue tribal kingdoms, whose inhabitants were experts in magic, spells, and the art of communication with the dead, spirits and Gods.  Fujian and Guangdong were incorporated into the Chinese Empire during the Qin and Han dynasties 2000 years ago, and in the following millennia, its indigenous culture merged with that of the Taoist Han Chinese settlers from the North.  The result is a hybrid, exuberant mix with a rich spiritual as well as architectural and gastronomical heritage that is evident in southern China today. 

With the emigration of the Fujian (or Hokkien) and Guangdong (also known as Cantonese) peoples to Southeast Asia, Taiwan and the rest of the world during the last five hundred years, these mystical manifestation of communication between the man and the mysterious divine spread with the Diaspora to other parts of the world. 

Here in Singapore, where the early peasant immigrants from southern China found themselves in a foreign urban environment, they recreated temples devoted to their gods back at home in order to find solace and security in a new environment.  Since then, these beliefs have continued by the descendants of these immigrants and prospered even though many of the traditions have disappeared in the old homeland through social upheaval, revolutions and wars; and that Singapore itself has become a prosperous, modern and technologically driven city-state which is also an international financial centre.

  Divining Youth

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