Lunar Seventh Month
The centrality of graveyards in the Underworld tradition
in Voices from the Underworld
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Chapter 6 connects the Underworld tradition to graveyards through lunar Seventh Month (Ghost Month) ‘salvation rituals’ performed in cemeteries for the souls of ancestors, aborted foetuses and wandering spirits. After outlining the Buddhist origins of Ghost Month and various taboos now associated with it, the ethnography moves to Singapore’s Choa Chu Kang Cemetery. The narrative contains two sections, the first describing two distinct rituals in a cemetery plot set aside for babies and aborted foetuses, and the second following a temple’s Seventh Month rituals, from applying for cemetery permits to the tang-ki centric conclusion of the rituals. Analytically, the presence of Taoist priests in Singapore’s Underworld tradition is assessed with reference to the decennial census, and revisions to the ‘Master Plan’ (1965) concerning cemeteries are explored as societal catalysts both to the popularisation of the Underworld tradition and to 2017’s cemetery rituals in particular. These rituals are analysed in context of Foucault’s ‘heterotopias’ as everyday forms of resistance’ to new and controversial national land policies.

Voices from the Underworld

Chinese Hell deity worship in contemporary Singapore and Malaysia

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