Who is Tua Pek Kong? The cult of Grand Uncle in Malaysia and Singapore
Chinese -- Singapore -- Religion Chinese -- Malaysia -- Religion Singapore -- Religious life and customs Malaysia -- Religious life and customs Folk religion -- Singapore Folk religion -- Malaysia Tua pek kong (Cult)
The arrival and settlement of Chinese migrants contributed to the spread of Chinese religious beliefs and practices from China to Southeast Asia. However, the arrival of Chinese beliefs and practices was more complex than being just a single-direction dissemination process. Chinese migrants not only transferred popular deities and native-place gods from China to Southeast Asia, but also invented their own gods in the migrant society. This article builds on Robert Hymes's concept of the "personal model of divinity" to examine the multifaceted nature of the Tua Pek Kong cult in Malaysia and Singapore. It argues that in the absence of an imperial bureaucracy in Southeast Asia, the "personal model" aptly explains the proliferation of Tua Pek Kong's cult among the Overseas Chinese communities. Tua Pek Kong was far from being a standardized god in a bureaucratic pantheon of Chinese deities; the deity was considered as a "personal being," offering protection to those who relied on him. This article presents the multifaceted cult of Tua Pek Kong in three forms: a symbol of sworn brotherhood, a Sino-Malay deity, and a Sinicized god.
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