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

Tan Wee Cheng, Singapore   weecheng.com
Tanki - Gods & Mediums Mainpage

thm_PA180165.jpg thm_PA180125.jpg  thm_PA180073.jpg

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. 


The priest conducting the ceremony with the skyscrapers of Singapore behind

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


If You Like This Website,

Click the button above to support TWC's website!

Buy these books! 
Lonely Planet: Singapore DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Singapore (Eyewitness Travel Guides)    Lonely Planet: Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei

Tan Wee Cheng 2004