During desolate years, Chinese forefathers sailed over and settled down in Malaysia, shedding blood and sweat in cultivating their own success, safety and wellness are of immediate concern to them while working abroad. Be it in rural countrysides or on streets and alleys, business districts, residential areas, or industrial sites, a small red shrine could be observed outdoors, the flowing incense smoke an offering to the guardian god of common folk —— Datuk Gong.
In the dense Chinese cultural history, there is a deeply-rooted belief in regional Land Gods. Upon settling in Malaysian lands, co-existing with compatriots from other races, praying together to be safe and sound, hence fusing the perception of regional Land God with pre-Islamic Malay Datuk Keramat spirit belief, resulting in a local God well-known across the country. The common representation of Datuk Gong is an elderly person wearing traditional Malay clothing, otherwise having numerous natural presence such as massive termite nests, towering ancient trees, or sacred stones. Datuk Gong accepts offerings from all races but not consuming pork, usually contributions are made according to Datuk Gong’s preference, including curry, turmeric rice, cigar etc.
Peninsula Plantation located in Simpang Renggam, formerly known as South Malaya Pineapple Plantation, is the largest pineapple plantation in Malaysia. The plantation was developed in 1954 on a large scale, covering an area of over 6,000 acres, with up to 400,000 pineapple trees planted. Back then there were hundreds of staff working in the plantation, including both local residents and labourers from neighbouring areas, made up of the three major races. This Datuk Gong shrine is located inside the plantation, its original site was a pile of stones near its current site, no matter supervisors, lorry drivers, or staff who plant and harvest pineapples, all of them will pay their respects on the way to and off work.
During the earlier days, there was no mosque near Peninsula Plantation, therefore it did not seem odd that compatriots from other races also prayed to Datuk Gong. In 1965, after the durian trees planted beside the rocks were struck by lightning, staff from the three major races joined efforts to build a temple as a place of shelter for Datuk Gong, which is today’s Ling Sian temple. The plaque recording donations made fades gradually, however the ink is still legible, a witness to the multicultural Malaysian community living together in harmony.
On 18th November, the annual celebration of Datuk Gong’s birthday, the plantation staff will worship with curry rice prepared by Malays. Back then it was extremely busy during the festive celebration, besides Chinese opera shows, there are also wayang kulit and movie showcases to cater for compatriots from other races, both held together at the empty space in front of the temple. People of three major races gather for the auspicious event, enjoying in harmony. Now it is different, Malays strictly adhere to Islamic practices, whereas Datuk Gong is continually worshipped by the local Chinese devotees, who set up a committee. Apart from upholding the reverence of Ling Sian Temple, they also organize a series of activities such as the annual Datuk Gong birthday celebration, donation to the needy and eldery, as well as Chinese New Year Spring Lantern Festival Dinner.
The Datuk Gong inside the plantation of Simpang Renggam pours out blessings to the locals in their work and lives, becoming their belief and spiritual sustenance. From a small shrine to the construction of Ling Sian Temple, step by step, the historical imprints show that the worshipping of Datuk Gong is not considered as religious, but a sense of respect for Mother Nature and the land we live on. Only by maintaining a heart filled with awe, there will be a smooth and safe life journey.
Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Michael Lerk
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Dyathon – With You from YouTube
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