“Knock!” On the table dusted with flour, a few strokes are written by a tip of the wooden sedan chair. A red cloth is tied around the waist of the red-faced Guān Dì, who sits on the sedan chair carried by two bearers. When Guān Dì manifests, the sedan chair sways to convey messages from the deity. On Tuesdays and Fridays at 8P.M., devotees gather at Tung Loh Temple nestled in the village of Jenjarom for Guān Dì consultation sessions.
Tung Loh Temple worships Guān Dì, protector of the common folk. Originally named Guān Yǔ, courtesy name Yúncháng, he was a military general serving under Eastern Han in the Three Kingdoms. His heroic deeds were documented in the classical book, The Records of the Three Kingdoms, and became widespread with the popular fiction The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. After the Peach Garden Oath, despite being captured by Cáo Cāo, he remained loyal to Liú Bèi, therefore he became a virtuous role model. The common folk immortalized him in celebration of his good virtues, and various posthumous titles were conferred to him till the Dì (Emperor) level.
In the 1910s, China was in the midst of political instability, as forerunners sailed southwards to seek a better living, incense ashes from Tung Loh Temple in Anxi County were carried for protection. Upon settling in Jenjarom, the Guān Dì faith was worshipped at home. Due to resources being scarce, when facing problems or sickness, people could only pray to deities for blessings to overcome difficulties. With his supreme powers, Guān Dì offers effective solutions and treatments, attracting neighbouring villagers to come to pray and seek consultation. In the 1950-60s, Jenjarom did not have medical facilities, Guān Dì would give prescriptions and went around in a wooden sedan chair to find herbs in the vicinity for ill devotees.
Consulting Guān Dì via wooden sedan chair spanned over a century in history, although the practice has been abolished in China, the Chinese who migrated overseas kept it running. There are barely any prohibitions regarding Guān Dì consultation, only refrain from noisy behaviour or participating in illegal activities. The most crucial aspect is to show sincerity and respect towards Guān Dì. Upholding Guān Dì’s mentality of helping others, many devotees attend consultation sessions as volunteers, as well as train up generations of sedan bearers. Due to the unspoken rule of rejecting monetary gifts, devotees who received blessings and would like to show their gratitude raised funds to acquire land to build a temple for Guān Dì. Tung Loh Temple in Jenjarom was established in 1986 and has been flourishing since.
Like most local villagers, the current temple committee chairman, Mr Tan Chin Chuan, comes from a family of fervent Guān Dì devotees, of which five generations are sedan bearers. Under social influence, he also engaged in worshipping Guān Dì, thus learning the story behind the faith as well as inspirations: Uphold good moral principles, be filial to parents, be loyal to spouse, siblings, and friends. Incidentally he accepted the post of committee chairman, following Guān Dì’s will to help the Jenjarom community. During festive celebrations, Tung Loh Temple gives back to the society by donating foods and goods to the needy.
The worship of Guān Dì may had its roots in feudalism, however it makes a positive impact on society, promoting valuable traditional culture as well as encouraging moral behaviour. Even though times change, loyalty and bravery are still generally appreciated. With devotees dedicated in spreading the Guān Dì mentality, Tung Loh Temple in Jenjarom thrives on.
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang / Michael Lerk
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Michael Lerk
Copywriter : Pua Hui Wen
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