Presentation on theme: "Ancestral God, Locality God, and Chinese Overseas Tan Chee-Beng Chinese University of Hong Kong."— Presentation transcript:
Ancestral God, Locality God, and Chinese Overseas Tan Chee-Beng Chinese University of Hong Kong
Introduction Chinese migrants, especially those who migrated to Southeast Asia, brought with them the popular deities of the regions where they migrated from. I should like to make a distinction between ancestor deity, which is the ritual focus of descendants of a particular lineage, and locality deity which is associated with a particular locality in China. The locality deities discussed here refer to deities of particular local origin in China and continue to be associated with that locality. This has significance for sub-ethnic identity of the Chinese overseas.
My research (between 2001 and 2003) on the Ye lineage in Shishan 诗山, Nan’an 南安 county in Fujian had led me to pay attention to two important deities in Shishan. The Ye 叶 lineage there has an ancestor god called Huize Zunwang 惠泽尊王. This is different from Guangze Zunwang 广泽尊王. The former is honored by the Ye lineage from Nan’an as well its descendants among Chinese of different nationalities (CDN). The later is a popular local deity from Nan’an, whose worship had spread beyond Nan’an, but mainly in southern Fujian. The worship of Guangze Zunwang is quite widespread in Taiwan and Southeast Asia
In this presentation I’ll discuss the significance of such local origin in China for the religious life and community organization of Chinese overseas, as well as the significance of the worship of these deities for the formation and perpetuation of transnational links between the Chinese overseas and the local religious sites in China. Relevant works: Kenneth Dean (1993), Choo Chin Taw (1968), Zeng Ling (2006) Chinese overseas, transnational networks and China.
Guangze Zunwang and Chinese Overseas Fengshan Si, Phoenix Mountain Temple, in Nan’an, is a well known temple locally and overseas among the Minnan Chinese (Hokkien). The temple documents trace its history to the tenth century. This is an example of a local temple that had become popular, and migrants spread the worship overseas, making the worship of Guangze Zunwang more known and influential
The deity is traced to one Guo Zhongfu 郭忠福 born to a very poor family on the 22nd of the 2nd Chinese month in 923 in Shishan in Nan’an, southern Fujian. The family was so poor that when his father died Guo Zhongfu sold himself as a slave to a Yang family in Anxi, also in southern Fujian. Guo Zhongfu and his mother eventually settled down at the foot of Fenghuang Mountain or Phoenix Mountain in Shishan. His filial piety and ability to do miraculous deeds formed an important discourse of his deification after his death/ascension at a young age of 16. The villagers built a temple at the place where he died/ascended, hence the present name of the temples that honor him, that is, Fengshan Si 凤山寺 or Fengshan (Phoenix Mountain) Temple, although the temple was originally called Guoshan Miao 郭山庙 or Guo Mountain Temple.
In 1195-1200 the deity was bestowed a long inclusive title of Weizhen Zhongying Fuhui Weiwu Yinglie Guangze Zunwang 威镇忠应孚惠威武英烈广泽尊王 which gives the present popular title for the deity, that is, Guangze Zunwang 广泽尊王 (The Reverent Lord of Great Compassion). Today he is popularly referred to as Guo Shengwang 郭圣王 or Holy King Guo. He is also popularly called Shenggong, Holy Duke, or Shengwanggong 圣王公. His wife is similarly affectionately addressed as Shengma 圣妈, Holy Duchess, or Shengwangma 圣王妈.
During the Cultural Revolution, Guangze Zunwang was treated as a landlord (the temple had land), and the temple was attacked and destroyed. After the economic liberalization of China, in 1978 the Nan’an tongxianghui (hometown associations) in Singapore in cooperation with the Returned Overseas Chinese Association (ROCA) of Nan’an agreed to rebuild Fengshan Temple, turning it into a grand temple of today. Chinese from other countries like Malaysia and the Philippines also contributed to the renovation over the years. By 1980, the local government took over the control of the temple. Commmodification of religion.
Every year there are around 60,000 people and many delegations visiting the temple. Most of these delegations are known as zumiao jinxiang tuan 祖庙进香团, and such visit and worshipping is described as yezu jinxiang 谒祖进香 : sort of pilgrimages. Thus the Chinese banner welcoming the Sabah delegation in 2003 read “Welcoming the Delegation from Papar Tengnan Tang and Kota Kinabalu Binan Tang of Sabah Malaysia Paying Homage to Guangze Zunwang” ( 热烈欢迎马来西亚沙巴州吧巴腾南堂 / 亚庇碧南堂 广泽尊王谒祖团光临 ).
Ancestral God of the Ye Clan Huize Zunwang is the ancestral god of the Ye people who trace their root to Nan’an in China. My Shishan Ye informants in Malaysia call Huize Zunwang affectionately in Hokkien as zoo-ong (zuwang 祖王, “ancestral king”) or zoo-but (zufo 祖佛, “ancestral Buddha”). Some also refer to him as zoo-gong 祖公. The Ye people traced their origin to Nanyang Prefecture 南阳府 in Henan province. Thus the temple in Malaysia in honor of Huize Zunwang is usually called Nanyang Gong 南阳宫 or Nanyang Temple.
Huize Zunwang was originally a Ye person from Gaotian in Nan’an born on the 10th of the 12th month in the year 1189. Named Ye Sen 叶森， this twelfth-century Ye ancestor was a vegetarian and he remained single until he ascended/died in 1208 at the age of twenty. The relatives built a temple called Cijigong 慈济宫 to honor him. He was awarded by the imperial court the title of Huize Zunwang 惠泽尊王, The Reverent Lord of Kind Compassion.
Huize Zunwang is worshipped by the Nan’an Ye- surnamed Chinese in Nan’an and overseas. In Malaysia the Nan’an Ye people are mostly in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. In KL: mainly concentrated in Segambut ( 泗岩沫 ), Jinjiang ( 增 江 ), and Sentul ( 冼都 ), and they are mostly the Ye people whose ancestral root is in Shetan 社坛 village in Shishan. There is a Huize Zunwang temple at each of these places, all named Nanyang Gong, differentiated by the name of each place, such as Jinjiang Nanyang Gong 增江 南阳宫.
The Ye clan associations and Huize Zunwang temples regularly organized delegations to visit the grand temple in Nan’an as well as the respective ancestral houses of the respective sub-lineages. In 2003 the Yap Temple in Penang ( 槟州南阳堂叶氏宗祠 ) was planning to build a new Huize Zunwang temple in Shen’an 深垵, Jintao Township 金淘镇 of Nan’an Municipality. Convinced of attracting tourists and establishing contacts with Chinese overseas, the Jintao Township government provided 300 mu ( 20 hectares) of land free of charge for the building of the temple. However, the planning and the selection of building materials are done by some Ye members under the coordination of the Yap Temple chairman.
Conclusion This presentation shows that the gods, especially the locality deities and ancestral deities, are important in linking the Chinese overseas to the emigrant regions in China. In fact these locality specific deities, not depending on kinship ties (although in the case of ancestral deity it is related), is more lasting in perpetuating the ties of Chinese overseas to their ancestral homeland.
Chinese overseas of Nan’an or general south Fujian origin established early local organization around the worship of Guangze Zunwang. The Guangze Zunwang worship in a number of early settlements preceded the establishment of Nan’an associations. As the temple in Shishan has the special status as being the original temple, it has become the “Mecca” of Guangze Zunwang temples and his worshippers everywhere. Both the Guangze Zunwang temples and Nan’an Associations are thus involved, together or separately, in organizing “pilgrimages” to the original temple in Shishan.
Other examples of locality deities: Qingshui Zushi 清水祖 师 (The Patriarch of the Clear Stream) of Anxi County in south Fujian; Fazhu Gong 法主公 (Miraculous Lord) associated with the Yongchun people in Malaysia and Singapore. The ancestral deities are known mainly among a particular surname group only, especially if they are deified ancestors of particular lineages. However, some surname associations have adopted some well known deities as the patron deities of their clans. For example, the Lim (Hokkien for Lin) clan associations in Malaysia have adopted Tianhou as their ancestral deity as the goddess’ surname was Lin (her full name being Lin Moniang 林默娘 ).
The description in this presentation shows that locality deities and ancestral gods, and founding ancestors, too, form the bridge between Chinese overseas and the ancestral homeland. They provide the symbols which link Chinese overseas and those in regions outside mainland China to the localities (villages and counties) where they or their migrant ancestors had migrated from. As long as these symbols remain meaningful to the Chinese outside the ancestral localities, the transnational networks will persist.
The religious and cultural symbols, as illustrated by the locality and ancestral deities, link Chinese outside mainland China to specific localities in China. As the original migrants recede into history, it is the symbol of the religious sites in China, and not loyalty to the land or the increasingly remote kin, that makes visiting particular localities in China particularly meaningful. Furthermore there are many tourist sites in China, and so it is convenient to combine religious “pilgrimages” with tourism in China.