Capturing Chinese Spirits, Ghost Kings and other Underworld Diety Cults



Image: Fabian Graham

Visual Anthropologist Fabian Graham’s entry to the IPA International Photography Award 2018


Spirit mediums and their rituals are central to the cult, and in addition to giving public consultations for healing and blessings, the ritual culture includes letting blood to bless objects; face and body piercings allowing the mediums to incorporate power bestowed in the objects; exorcism; performing ‘salvation rituals’ for the souls of the dead in temples or cemeteries; sending offerings to these souls through ritual incineration; and, providing a central focus for local religious communities, most notably, by throwing parties on deity’s birthdays. Therefore, while these deities are feared in the afterlife, when channeled through mediums, devotees perceive them as providing useful services, and as more approachable than Heaven deities. Other gods associated with the tradition are the ‘Ghost King’ Da Shi Ye, Si Ya Pek (3rd Uncle), the Underworld God of Filial Piety and the City God. The portfolio portrays many facets of this religious tradition.


photo: Fabian Graham Tua Ya Pek (left), and Di Ya Pek (right) depicted in statue form on a temple altar in Singapore.

. Their drinks of choice are Guinness and Cognac, and their large consumption of alcohol makes them easily approachable by devotees who come to consult them as channeled through their spirit mediums. The following




Barry William Hale


  1. Hi there, I love the second last picture of the deities statue, may I ask where was this taken.

    Thank you.

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