The story behind ‘Datuk Kong’ worship

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The worshiping of the Taoist deity ‘Datuk Kong’ in Malaysia has sparked controversy among Malaysians recently, after a shrine with purportedly Islamic elements caused offence to some.

This concerned a ‘Datuk Kong’ shrine that had a mosque-like dome on Jalan Makyong 5E/KU5 in Bukit Raja, which was demolished by the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) on Wednesday.

Prior to its demolition, photos of the shrine with its alleged Islamic elements became viral on social media and it was perceived as an offence by many.

With regard to the incident, Malaysiakini spoke to the Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia Klang Bandar Di-Raja branch president, Yeoh Choo Beng to understand more about the ‘Datuk Kong’.

The worshiping of the ‘Datuk Kong’ was believed to have started in the 19th century when the Chinese migrated to South-East Asia.

According to Yeoh, the ‘Datuk Kong’ was not always named as it is and the name was generated by the local Malays.

“The Chinese brought in the spirit ‘di zhu gong’ (god of the land) as they worship him and asked for protection on a foreign land.

“It is said that when the Chinese tried to explain to the local Malays about the deity, they pronounced it as ‘tok kong’, which was then interpreted as ‘Datuk Kong’ by the Malays,” said Yeoh.

Worshipped for good deeds past

With that said, Yeoh noted that the exact origin of the ‘Datuk Kong’ is not clearly recorded in the Taoist teachings, as it is not among the Taoist gods.

He said that the spirits of the ‘datuk’ who have passed on are worshipped because they have done good deeds in the past, which were appreciated by the people.

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