You are here

Chinese Singaporean's Practice of Lineage and Worship of Ancestral Deities: A Case Study of the Hokkien People

Articles
Yu-Ju LAI (Academia Sinica)
Year: 
2018
Volume: 
16
Number: 
2
Page: 
123-149
Abstract: 

This article examines how Chinese Singaporeans connected their clan members with ancestral deities in their practice of lineage and ancestral worshipping. Specifically, such activities take place in lineage temples where kinsmen are offered with ritual space to worship their ancestral deities. This article offers an in-depth analysis of five case studies of Hokkien people and proposes that there are three models of linage practices: "Deity-centered", "Deities as Ancestral Figures" and ''Coexistence of Deities and Ancestors". Quantitatively, the "Deity-centered" model is most common while the "Coexistence of Deities and Ancestors" model is the least common one.

This article also demonstrates how lineage temples responded to the challenges, when the government was redefining the land usage. Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has promulgated various legislations of the use and acquisition of land. Against this backdrop, lineage temples had to be relocated and rebuilt, either independently or be merged as united temples (聯合廟). After moving, many lineage temples were rebuilt under expansive land contracts, and a hybrid category of "united temples"-temples combined with shared land space- was formed. United temples even had multiple lineage flags under the same roof, since every linage group made great efforts to keep their own signatures.

This paper helps to conceptualize the process that Chinese Singaporeans practice their lineages through deity worshipping and sheds new lights on how lineage temples responded to challenges arising from societal development and the changing government policies.

Journal of History and Anthropology