Sunday, August 27, 2006

The German Girl Shrine

"The Nadu Guniang shrine on Pulau Ubin is a striking example of the inclusivity of Chinese worship. It is dedicated to the ghost of a German girl. 'Nadu' is the Chinese approximation of 'datuk' and 'guniang' means 'maiden'. Together they suggest a maiden who has 'holy' qualities like a datuk.
This yellow hut under an assam tree enshrines the remains of a German girl who fell off a steep cliff into a quarry while fleeing from the British who had come to take over her father's coffee plantation. Her body was found the next day by plantation labourers, swarming with ants, and was hurriedly buried on the spot.
The Ubin villagers reported seeing her ghost repeatedly after this, so they gave her a proper burial. In 1974, she was exhumed and stored in an urn in a nearby Chinese shrine. The remains were later stolen, it seems - but an urn remains and the girl's shrine has become a popular pilgrimage, especially for gamblers."

From Jonathan Lim, Between Gods and Ghosts, Cavendish International, 2005.

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