Malaysia and the party spirit
Guanxi and the creation of ‘intentional’ communities
in Voices from the Underworld
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Providing further details from the ‘Jade Record’, Chapter 7 ethnography centres on a model reconstruction of the Underworld – illustrating its Ten Courts and a selection of tortures in their sub-hells – which has been built as a ritual space and place of worship. Located in Klang, Selangor State, Malaysia, Di Ya Pek’s three-day birthday celebrations, which attracted approximately 1,000 devotees provides the chapter’s ethnographic setting for the mass channelling of Underworld deities and their subsequent consumption of opium and alcohol, alongside the channelling of multiple Chinese Heaven deities and Malay Datuk Gong. The two features of analytical interest which arise from this are the transfiguration of religious norms and the formation of extensive ethnoreligious communities based on Underworld deity veneration. The transfiguration materialises in two guises, the first being an inversion of authority in the ‘Heaven–human–Underworld’ hierarchy, seen reflected in the interactions between the possessed tang-ki, the second by the mass consumption of intoxicants in temple settings. Both are analysed in broader context of changing moralities and the role of ethnic self-identity in Malaysia’s religious landscape and how, in addressing these issues, the Underworld tradition has become a locus of local community formation.

Voices from the Underworld

Chinese Hell deity worship in contemporary Singapore and Malaysia

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