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

The Ritual

First, the tanki, performs prayers to the Jade emperor and other main gods and deities.  Then he sits on elaborately carved “dragon chair”, so named due to the motifs of flying dragon, Chinese mystical symbols of power and fortune.     


The possession begins



Possessed now 



Possessed by Na Zha, the tanki walks around with a pacifier



Worshippers feeding the Na Zha possessed medium with milk and sweets

He lets his head down with their legs wide apart, chanting and calling the gods to possess him, while gradually falling into a trance.  The moment of sacred possession is often signaled by increasingly fast gyration of his head, violent twitching of his body, and sometimes followed by sudden movements, such as a hop onto a table or chair.  Often, the movements are so violent that the medium might hurt himself, and the temple assistants have to hold him tight, and then helped him to put on brightly coloured embroidered aprons which proclaim the name of the temple and the “visiting” deity. 

A deity often represented by such rituals is the Qi Tian Da Sheng (literally meaning The Saint Equal With Heaven) or the Monkey God famous in the great Chinese classic, Journey To The West (Xi-You-Ji), which some say is the Chinese equivalent of the Hindu Monkey God Hanuman.  The tanki who is possessed by Qi Tian Da Sheng often jumps around with great agility like a monkey.  His followers would follow him around, sometimes feeding him peanuts or bananas.     

Another “popular” god is the child-god Ne Zha (also known as San-Tai-Zi or the Third Prince), who is often seen holding a large magical ring and spear while standing on wheels of fire.  Once possessed by Ne Zha, the tanki would be sucking a pacifier and wandering around the venue with followers who pass him sweets like one would do to children.  Tankis are also often possessed by deities such as Guan Yin, Guan Di Yeh, Ji Gong, Hei Bai Wu Chang, Da Er Bo Yeh, etc. 

As the ceremony progresses, the tanki wanders around the temple compound amidst loud gong clamps and sacred music, followed by devout worshippers.  The tanki’s assistant walks ahead of the tanki, waving a whip and occasionally hitting the ground with it.  This whip, known as the fa-shen (“Whip of the Power”), usually has a wooden handle carved in the shape of a snake’s head.  It drives away the evil spirit and clear the way for the god-possessed tanki.

 The Sacrifice


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