Voices from the Underworld

Chinese hell deity worship in contemporary Singapore and Malaysia

By Fabian Graham

Voices from the Underworld


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4059-3
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £96.00 (incl. VAT)
  • Published Date: February 2020
  • BIC Category: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, RELIGION / General, South East Asia, Religious Groups: Social & Cultural Aspects, Religious Life & Practice, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography
  • Series: Alternative Sinology


Voices from the Underworld focuses on Singapore and Malaysia's contemporary Chinese Underworld traditions where Hell deities are now amongst the most commonly venerated deities on altars and when channelled through spirit mediums. Intended for academics, lecturers, students, and those intrigued with Chinese culture, while highlighting the Taoist and Buddhist cosmologies upon which present-day beliefs and practices are based, the ethnography provides readers with unique insights into the lived tradition.Embracing ontological and dialogic approaches to religious phenomena, alterity is taken seriously, and practitioner's beliefs interpreted without bias. The emic voice is literally heard through first-person dialogues between the author and channelled Underworld deities throughout the ethnography. This alternative approach challenges wider present-day discourse concerning the interrelationships between sociocultural and spiritual worlds.


Part I: Setting the scene
1 The modern Underworld tradition
2 Analysis: a baseline of comparison
3 The historical development of Underworld cosmology
Part II: The Underworld tradition in Singapore
4 Yu Feng Nan Fu Xuanshan Miao: setting a baseline of comparison
5 A new Underworld God of Wealth, and, foetus assistance rituals in Singapore
6 Lunar Seventh Month: the centrality of graveyards in the Underworld tradition
Part III: The Underworld tradition in Malaysia
7 Malaysia and the party spirit: guanxi and the creation of 'intentional' communities
8 Seventh Month rituals in southern Malaysia: salvation rituals and 'Ah Pek' parties
9 Seventh Month rituals in central Malaysia: coffin rituals and the releasing of exorcised spirits
Part IV: Tracing the origins of the modern Underworld tradition
10 Anxi Chenghuangmiao and cultural flows of local mythology
11 Penang: the earliest recollections of Tua Di Ya Pek embodied
12 Conclusions and analysis


Fabian Graham is a Research Fellow in the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore

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