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The Goddess Of Mercy & Underworld God Spoke To Me Through A Chinese Spirit Medium – Here’s What They Said

Visiting a Chinese spirit medium in Singapore

Since young, I’ve always found the supernatural to be rather fascinating. Growing up in a Buddist and Taoist family, I was surrounded by stories about the spiritual and supernatural realms. Whenever I heard my aunts and uncles – who are rather devoted in their faith – share stories about Chinese spirit mediums, you can bet that I’d be listening … or eavesdropping. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 19 years of living and navigating between spirituality, religion, and the world, it’s the understanding that science can only explain so much before the supernatural takes over. It’s called super-natural for a reason. 

Science helps us rationalise and make sense of things we don’t understand. But just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That was my biggest takeaway when I visited a Chinese spirit medium in Singapore

What’s Chinese Spirit Mediumship?

chinese spirit medium singapore - mediumshipImage credit: Gracelyn Lim 

Chinese spirit mediums are more commonly known as tang-ki, which is the Hokkien translation of the Chinese word tong-ji. The practice of tang-ki originated from the Fujian province of China which consists of the Hokkien, Hainanese, and Hockchew communities. All of which make a part of Singapore’s society today. That would explain how the practice planted its roots in Singapore. 

According to Chinese belief, tang-kis are vessels for gods to possess and help the people on earth, whether it’s to give advice or guidance. However, over the years, the practice has become more and more scarce. You won’t be able to see a tang-ki session take place as commonly before – though your best bets would be at events held in temples during the Hungry Ghost Festival

It’s not guaranteed that the deities will turn up

When my aunt told me that there was going to be a tang-ki sesh happening soon, I knew that I had to attend it. However, the session that I was attending was slightly different. Instead of a temple, the location for the session was actually an HDB flat. That’s because the invitation of the gods this time is to celebrate the opening of the HDB flat as a Jiu Shi Yun, a home-based temple. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - jiu shi yunImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

Prior to heading over, I asked my aunt what I could expect from the tang-ki session, to which she explained that there was no guarantee that the session would even commence. She told me that they cannot force the deities to come if they’re unwilling to. 

That day’s tang-ki session had 2 deities – the Goddess of Mercy and the God of the Underworld. When I asked my aunt roughly what time, she couldn’t give me an exact answer, as it’s hard to predict when the deities wanted to come. 

Visiting a Chinese spirit medium in an HDB flat

And so, I found myself making my way over. Everything seemed rather normal that day, like I was just visiting a relative during Chinese New Year. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - corridorImage adapted from: Gracelyn Lim

But I knew I was in for a whole new experience the moment the doors to the lift opened. The first thing I saw was a table filled with a wide spread of food prepared for “anyone” who’s visiting and hasn’t had dinner. Turning into the corridor, I was taken aback to see a black flag – which represented the general of the army, and a rather elaborate chair. I was then told that it was for the Goddess of Mercy. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - consultationAltar for the Jade Emperor on the left and for Tu Di Gong on the right.Image adapted from: Gracelyn Lim

Right outside the flat were 2 altars – the top one dedicated to the Jade Emperor, considered to be one of the most powerful deities, and the bottom dedicated to “Tu Di Gong”, the Earth God. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - offeringsImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

The first thing I saw when I entered the flat was another altar. This one was bigger in size, with 2 separate tiers. Right in front of it were plates of food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, as well as fruits neatly arranged. These were food offerings for the deities. 

I’ve seen altars in my relatives’ and friends’ houses before, but seeing a 2-tiered altar was new to me. My aunt then explained that most families have altars for the heaven deities they worship, hence 1-tiered altars are enough. 2-tiered altars are usually found in temples with tang-kis. The top tier represents heaven, while the bottom represents hell.

Before I knew it, it was time for the tang-ki session to start. Since this was my first time experiencing a session like this, you can bet I was scared and cautious. There weren’t any particular precautions or house rules to follow, except one: turn off my flash when the God of the Underworld arrives as he “can’t see light”. 

The arrival of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy

The first deity the tang-ki summoned was Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. I had no idea what to expect and was kind of scared because, well, she’s an actual Goddess.

chinese spirit medium singapore - folding papersImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

The medium had 3 helpers and 1 assistant. One of the assistants started the process by folding incense paper and drawing a “Fu” on it, which is believed to attract “good fortune” or “happiness”. This would be used to invite and welcome the deity. 

The helper then proceeded to pray to the heaven deities, followed by the hell deities – the general outside the flat, the Jade Emperor, and the Earth God. 

He also used a whip to clear the surroundings of any evil spirits that might be lurking around to make the path clear for the deity to arrive. After that was done, the medium started entering a trance, making dainty gestures with his fingers. 

Instruments were played to welcome the deity and to add some re nao – or what we call, vibes – to the place. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - instrumentsImage adapted from: Gracelyn Lim

After a few minutes, the medium sat in a cross-legged position and had his fingers positioned in a way that’s the same as what you see on the Guan Yin statue. He stood up and started talking in a feminine and gentle voice, in a language that I couldn’t comprehend. The friendly medium uncle was no longer in his body, he was now a vessel for Guan Yin. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - medium guan yinImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

“My Mandarin shouldn’t be THAT bad,” I thought. I asked around and it turned out that none of us could understand what she was saying as she was speaking a language that only the gods and deity would understand. She then proceeded to pray to the different deities before sitting down. 

“Meeting” the Goddess of Mercy

I expected everyone to be really quiet and solemn since we were in the presence of a Goddess, but that wasn’t the case. Everyone was relaxed and the atmosphere was lively. She blessed a bottle of floral water and passed it to the helpers to distribute it amongst the women in the unit.

chinese spirit medium singapore - floral waterImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

I was really confused at first, but then I found out that the floral water was one of her favourite things. Since she was here with us, she wanted to share it with us humans too. 

I was really fascinated by the floral water which my aunt explained was a mix of just normal water – or holy water in some cases – and flowers. The special thing is that it was blessed by the Goddess herself. The floral water brings about blessings and helps with cleansing negative energy as well. 

People in the unit started going up to her one by one, saying “ah niu qing an”, a way of greeting and showing respect to the Goddess. When it was my turn, she looked at me and said in Mandarin: “This is your first time attending something like this”. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - consultationImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

After the greetings were done, people started going up to the Goddess for “consultations” – where they could seek advice and guidance in whatever situation or difficulty they were facing. Towards the end, I mustered enough courage to approach the deity and offered my palm and surprisingly, she said some pretty solid things. 

What really impacted me was the Goddess’ reaction when she found out that I was Christian. Prior to this, I thought that she would have scolded me or lectured me in some sort of way. Instead, she gently advised me to turn to my own beliefs and even assured me that all my prayers would be answered. 

After making sure that everyone who needed advice had spoken to the Goddess, it was time for her to leave the medium’s body. The medium went into a trance and with a push on the forehead and a loud thud, Guan Yin left his body.

The medium was back to his usual self. Things started getting busy as everyone was rushing around passing the medium water and checking to see if he was feeling okay. You can tell that there was a stark change in his demeanour and that he wasn’t who he was a few minutes ago. At this point, I was still in complete shock and hadn’t really processed the scene in front of me.  

“Have you seen the Hell God before?” the medium uncle asked me in Mandarin, to which I replied, no. He smiled and told me to not get startled when he – the Hell God – came later on. I went out of the flat to catch some fresh air and I came back to find that all the lights were switched off. 

Having an actual conversation with the underworld deity, Tua Ya Pek

The name Dua Di Ah Pek or Hei Bai Wu Chang might sound familiar to you, as they usually appear at temples or home altars. The duo consists of Tua Ya Pek, dressed in white, and Di Ah Pek, dressed in black. Both of whom used to be mortals who were then appointed to be Underworld deities by the Jade Emperor upon their deaths. 

Tua Ya Pek is known to some as the God of Fortune and seeing him is equivalent to receiving a large fortune. On the other hand, seeing Di Ah Pek means that one’s life is coming to an end – as he is in charge of escorting souls to the Underworld, or Difu

chinese spirit medium singapore - red lightThe red lights in the picture come from the lamps on the altar.Image credit: Gracelyn Lim

How many of us can say that we had the chance to talk to one of the Underworld deities? I can. And the one I met is none other than Tua Ya Pek himself. The ritual was the same as the one with the Goddess of Mercy, with the only difference being the type of paper used – one’s for the heaven deities, while the other is for the hell deities. 

When the Goddess of Mercy came, the medium’s movements when in a trance were rather gentle and dainty. In comparison, when Tua Ya Pek came, the medium’s movements were louder and much more intimidating.

The medium started rocking back and forth heavily on his chair. Suddenly, he let out a deep groan and stuck his tongue out; in a similar way to what the Tua Ya Pek’s statue looks like. This indicated that the deity had arrived. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - giftsImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

Instead of giving out floral water, Tua Ya Pek gave out tau sar piah and muah chee, which are his favourites. He also gave out red eggs to celebrate the launch of the Jiu Shi Yun

Similar to how things were when the Goddess of Mercy arrived, people started going up to the medium for consultations. This time round, I wasn’t as bold as I was before. In fact, I was terrified. However, after much persuasion and support from my aunt, I decided to just give it a go. 

chinese spirit medium singapore - tua ya pek consultationImage credit: Gracelyn Lim

The God of the Underworld spoke in very chim hokkien with a very strong accent that made it sound like an entirely different language or dialect. I can understand Hokkien – but this time round, I hardly understood anything and had to rely on my uncle for translations. 

The conversation I had with the God of the Underworld wasn’t so bad. I assumed that he’d be rather intimidating and fierce, but he was actually friendly and easy to talk to. He even advised me to be more sociable but also warned me to be more careful and not be so naive. To that, I’m sure my friends would agree. 

He also mentioned that I’m someone who’s very devoted to my faith and that I just need to keep praying for all of my prayers to be answered. I was really surprised as I didn’t mention anything about my faith – my cross necklace wasn’t on display either. When I asked him how he knew, he said he could not reveal heaven’s secrets.

The atmosphere of the place quietened down a lot as a majority left after finishing their consultations. Most of them looked a little “lost” or confused, since they’ve just been given an insight into the future and now have to make a decision that’ll potentially change the outcome of their future lives. Personally, I was quite confused, since the God of the Underworld told me I should be more social. 

Thoughts on attending a Chinese spirit medium ritual for the first time

chinese spirit medium singapore - altarsImage adapted from: Gracelyn Lim

Most people will probably never believe that I actually talked to the Goddess of Mercy and the God of the Underworld. Some might argue and question the legitimacy of my experience. While not everyone will agree or believe in this, it’s important to be respectful of other people’s practices as you would like others to respect yours. 

TBH, it felt surreal for me too. Not everyone, especially in today’s generation, is lucky enough to get this opportunity. At the end of the day, I believe that tang-ki is a cultural practice we need to preserve, as it’s slowly disappearing in Singapore’s modern society. 

I bet many of my peers would be surprised to even hear of something like this happening in Singapore, which tells us that we’re not doing enough to protect these unique cultures and traditions. Granted, these sessions don’t happen often – only during special occasions like Hungry Ghost Festival and one of the Gods’ birthdays. 

If, like me, you’re interested in learning more about these cultural practices, the best place to start is by asking your parents or grandparents. You can also read up more about it, and then share the knowledge you’ve gained with your families and friends. 

Living in a multicultural and multireligious society in Singapore, it’s super important that we strive to learn, understand, and appreciate the different cultural practices we have. 

Cover image adapted from: Gracelyn Lim


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