Celebrating the Taoist Dieties – Twa Pek and Jee Pek of the Underworld in Penang   Leave a comment



Celebrating the Taoist Dieties – Twa Pek (in white) and Jee Pek (in Black) of the Underworld in a Taoist Temple, Madras Lane, Penang.

Taoism in Malaysia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Taoism in Malaysia is followed by many Chinese. In general, owing to the decline in religious knowledge amongst the younger generations, many followers focus on rituals of Malaysian Chinese religion with little or no knowledge of Taoist scriptures and cultivation.

History
Taoism arrived in Malaysia with Chinese settlers. Taoist practice later flourished as an increasing number of Chinese settled in Malaysia.
Many Taoist followers also worship ancestors and bodhisattva as these beliefs have traditionally enjoyed a peaceful coexistence, thereby leading to obscured delineation between them. There are also Chinese salvationist religions such as Wuweiism (無為教), the De religion which has also been well established in East Malaysia and Thailand, and Zhenkongism (真空教) that was popular among Hakka people before World War II for stopping people taking opium.

Taoism (sometimes Daoism) is a philosophical, ethical or religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (also romanized as Dao). The term Tao means “way”, “path” or “principle”, and can also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. In Taoism, however, Tao denotes something that is both the source of, and the force behind, everything that exists. The “way” becomes clear when one is in constant meditation with all thoughts being subconsciously regulated outside the state of mental stillness, although emotions will drive thoughts, they remain an absolute choice.

Taoism is practiced as a religion in various Asian communities, but its theology is not dependent on the existence of an anthropomorphic godlike figurehead (even though some communities do worship Laozi as the attributed founder of the philosophical doctrine), and has more affinities with pantheistic traditions given its philosophical emphasis on the formlessness of the Tao. Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the tenets of the School of Yin Yang, and is heavily influenced and informed by the acknowledged oldest text of ancient Chinese classics, the I Ching, which prescribes a system of philosophical thought on the ethics of human behaviours based on articulating cycles of change in the natural and social worlds by means of gua or hexagrams, and includes instructions for divination practice still adhered to by modern-day religious Taoists.[1] The Tao Te Ching, a compact and ambiguous book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao Tzu), is widely considered the keystone work of this philosophy. Together with the writings of Zhuangzi, which interprets and adds to the teaching of Laozi, these classic texts provide the philosophical foundation of Taoism deriving from the 8 trigrams (bagua) of Fu Xi in the 2700s BCE in China, the various combinations of which creates the 64 hexagrams as documented in the I Ching.

Taoist propriety and ethics may vary depending on the particular school, but in general they tend to emphasize wu-wei (action through non-action), “naturalness”, simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: compassion, moderation, and humility.

Taoism has had profound influence on Chinese culture in the course of the centuries, and clerics of institutionalised Taoism (Chinese: 道士; pinyin: dàoshi) usually take care to note distinction between their ritual tradition and the customs and practices found in Chinese folk religion as these distinctions sometimes appear blurred. Chinese alchemy (especially neidan), Chinese astrology, Chan (Zen) Buddhism, several martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. Beyond China, Taoism also had influence on surrounding societies in Asia.

After Laozi and Zhuangzi, the literature of Taoism grew steadily and was compiled in form of a canon—the Daozang—which was published at the behest of the emperor. Throughout Chinese history, Taoism was several times nominated as a state religion. After the 17th century, however, it fell from favor.

Today, Taoism is one of five religions officially recognized in China, and although it does not travel readily from its Asian roots, claims adherents in a number of societies.[2] Taoism also has sizable communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and in Southeast Asia.

A Chinese philosopher defines Taoism thus: “early forms come from understanding and experience of the Tao. Experience of the Tao is an irreducible element of the formation and transformation of Chinese experience of the ultimate”.

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Heibai Wuchang
Heibai Wuchang
Traditional Chinese 黑白無常
Simplified Chinese 黑白无常
Literal meaning Black and White Impermanence
Wuchang Gui
Traditional Chinese 無常鬼
Simplified Chinese 无常鬼
Literal meaning Ghost of Impermanence

1-TwaPek JeePek 347

The Heibai Wuchang, literally “Black and White Impermanence”, are two deities in Chinese folk religion in charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the Underworld. As their names suggest, they are dressed in black and white respectively. They are the subordinates of Yama, the ruler of the Underworld in Chinese mythology, alongside the Ox-Headed and Horse-Faced Hell Guards. They are worshipped as fortune deities in Chinese temples in some countries.

In some instances, the Heibai Wuchang are represented as a single being – instead of two separate beings – known as the Wuchang Gui (also romanised Wu-ch’ang Kuei), literally “Ghost of Impermanence”. Depending on the person it encounters, the Wuchang Gui could appear as either a fortune deity who rewards the person for doing good deeds or a malevolent deity who punishes the person for committing evil.

Inserted by SP Lim

Alternative names
In folklore, the White Guard’s name is Xie Bi’an (traditional Chinese: 謝必安; simplified Chinese: 谢必安; pinyin: Xiè Bì’ān; Wade–Giles: Hsieh Pi-an) while the Black Guard’s name is Fan Wujiu (traditional Chinese: 范無救; simplified Chinese: 范无救; pinyin: Fàn Wújiù; Wade–Giles: Fan Wu-chiu). They are sometimes referred to as “Generals Fan and Xie” (traditional Chinese: 范謝將軍; simplified Chinese: 范谢将军; pinyin: Fàn Xiè Jiāngjūn). “Bi’an” literally means “definitely will be at peace” while “Wujiu” literally means “cannot be helped”.

In Fujian and Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, they are known as “First and Second Masters” (traditional Chinese: 大二老爺; simplified Chinese: 大二老爷; pinyin: Dà Èr Lǎoyé) or “First and Second Uncles” (traditional Chinese: 大二爺伯; simplified Chinese: 大二爷伯; pinyin: Dà Èr Yébó; Hokkien: Tua Di Ah Pek / Tua Li Ya Pek).

In Taiwan, they are called “Seventh and Eighth Masters” (traditional Chinese: 七爺八爺; simplified Chinese: 七爷八爷; pinyin: Qīyé Bāyé).

In Sichuan, they are referred to as the “Two Masters Wu” (traditional Chinese: 吳二爺; simplified Chinese: 吴二爷; pinyin: Wú Èr Yé).[1]

Inserted by SP Lim from Wikipedia


Iconography
The White Guard is commonly portrayed as a fair-complexioned man dressed in a white robe and wearing a tall hat bearing the Chinese words “Become Rich Upon Encountering Me” (一見發財/一見生財), “Become Lucky Upon Encountering Me” (一見大吉), or “You Have Come Too” (你也來了). He holds a hand fan in one hand and a fish-shaped shackle or wooden sign in the other hand. He is usually depicted as the taller of the duo.

The Black Guard is typically represented as a dark-complexioned man dressed in a black robe and wearing a hat similar to the one worn by the White Guard. The Chinese words on his hat are “Peace to the World” (天下太平) or “Arresting You Right Now” (正在捉你). He holds a hand fan in one hand and a squarish wooden sign in the other hand. The sign bears the words “Making a Clear Distinction Between Good and Evil” (善惡分明) or “Rewarding the Good and Punishing the Evil” (獎善罰惡). A long chain is wrapped around one of his arms.

Some statues of them depict them with ferocious snarls on their faces and long red tongues sticking out their mouths to scare away evil spirits. However, sometimes they have different facial expressions: the White Guard looks friendly and approachable while the Black Guard looks stern and fierce.

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Stories
One day, the White Guard was on patrol when he saw a woman and two children crying in front of a grave. He asked what happened. The woman was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who owned four shops. She was born with smallpox, which affected her physical appearance. Her mother died in depression after feeling guilty for what happened to her daughter. The merchant had a cunning servant, who knew that no man would want to marry his master’s daughter because of her appearance. The servant considered that if he married her, he would inherit his master’s wealth when his master died, so he pretended to like his master’s daughter and eventually married her. She bore him two children. The servant revealed his true colours later: He neglected his family, treated them with contempt, and spent his time indulging in sensual pleasures. The merchant regretted his decision to marry his daughter to his servant and died in frustration.

The White Guard felt angry after hearing the story and decided to help the woman. When she returned home, she met a man who wanted to collect a gambling debt owed by her husband. After she paid him, he saw that she was alone and tried to molest her but she shoved him away and locked herself inside her room. She then cried over her plight and tried to hang herself. Just then, the door opened and the White Guard came in with her children. She saw the White Guard’s friendly appearance and felt no fear. He advised her, “Why are you thinking of taking your own life? Why don’t you pack your belongings and leave this place for good with your children? They need you to take care of them and raise them.” She heeded the White Guard’s advice. After they left, the house and the four shops suddenly caught fire and were burnt down. By the time the servant found out about the fire, all his inherited fortune had already been destroyed.

Background stories
The most common background story of the Heibai Wuchang says that Xie Bi’an and Fan Wujiu used to work as constables in a yamen. One day, a convict they were escorting to another location escaped during the journey. They decided to split up and search for the escaped convict and meet again later under a bridge at a certain time. However, Xie Bi’an was delayed due to heavy rain so he did not reach the bridge in time. Fan Wujiu, who was on time, waited under the bridge. The heavy rain caused flooding in the area under the bridge. Fan Wujiu refused to leave because he wanted to keep his promise to his colleague, and eventually drowned. When Xie Bi’an arrived, he was saddened to see that Fan Wujiu had drowned, so he committed suicide by hanging himself. The Jade Emperor was deeply impressed by their actions so he appointed them as guardians of the Underworld.

Some other versions of their background story are generally similar to the above story in two aspects. First, both of them agreed to meet at a certain place at a certain time. Second, the ways in which they died. The differences lie in their previous careers: Some believed they were military officers (hence they were also called “Generals”) while others said they were peasants who lived next to each other.

There are other stories which say that the Heibai Wuchang have different, unrelated backgrounds. The Black Guard was a scoundrel who spent his time gambling. His father tried to discipline him and force him to change his ways but he refused to listen. One day, he lost all his money in gambling and had a violent argument with his father when he came home. His father lost control of himself and killed his son in anger. After his death, the Black Guard was sent to Hell, where he received due punishment. He repented and atoned for his sins by doing several good deeds. The gods were touched by his repentance and appointed him as the Black Guard of Impermanence. The White Guard, on the other hand, was born in a wealthy family and had a kind personality. His father once sent him on an errand with a large sum of money, but he forgot about his errand and used the money to help a poor family in need. When he realised his mistake, he felt ashamed to return home to face his parents so he committed suicide. After his death, the gods considered his good deeds and appointed him as the White Guard of Impermanence.

Inserted by SP Lim from Wikipedia

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