Tuesday 12 February 2019

History of Datuk Gong

Image: A Datuk shrine at my hometown, Subang Jaya

Being Malaysian, it is inevitable for one to ignore shrines that resemble the one above.

My interest in Datuk Gong initiated with an intrigue when I noticed a shrine in my campus' temple ( I mistook Datuk Gong shrines to be a branch of Chinese ancestral worship earlier ). My quest explored and I finally solved the mystery behind this ubiquitous deity.

 Datuk in the campus periphery of AIMST University, my Alma Mater

Datuk Gong shrines are widespread across the width and breadth of this nation, occupying any possible space - Under trees, hotels, malls, houses, temples, forests and even by the roadside to quote a few.

A Datuk Shrine in a Muniandy temple at Sungai Lalang, Sungai Petani

Who is Datuk Gong ?

So who is this deity who actively watches over the pedestrians, as early as when dawn peels over the sky up to the wee hours ? Datuk Gong is a consciousness that is worshiped for mundane purposes. Common examples include protection, wealth and health.

For instance, people worship Datuk Gong before going for a job interview. Commoner examples of course include for the purpose of winning a lottery.

The term 'Datuk Gong' is an amalgamation of two cultures. Datuk refers to a honorable title in the Malay language while 'Gong' refers to the same in the Chinese dialect. As it is obvious-this deity represents the Malaysian culture for reasons we shall see.

A Datuk shrine or idol represents an individual consciousness. This consciousness would be that of a prominent figure ( excluding instagram public figures ) in the society who has walked the timeline of history. For instance, healers, martial artists, philanthropists across all ages.

A Datuk is not confined to a particular race or religion. For those who are aware of Dargahs in India, Datuk Gong worship is a Malaysian equivalent to it - just that we find their presence in small erected shrines rather than their actual samadhi ( grave ) 

Attankarai Dargah, Thirunelveli,India - A famous Dargah with mystical history behind it.

A Dargah is a shrine built over the samadhi ( grave ) of a Sufi Saint who has attained an eminent spiritual awakening - possibly even enlightenment. Dargahs hold a mystical ambiance and is frequented by people from different religious backgrounds.

Many seekers even opt for Dargahs as a spot for meditation.

Nagore Dargah Sheriff , Georgetown, Penang. This is a replica of the famous Dargah in Nagore, India

So to put it simple - Datuk Gong represents a saintly personality who has attained spiritual awakening, thus preserving a very vibrant consciousness upon leaving the body, which can confer help to us. One of the quickest paths to spiritual awakening is selfless service. This is one reason why most Datuks were once someone who had rendered selfless help and service to humanity.

Datuk Karpal Singh now worshiped

There are no strict regulations and protocols as to how one should worship the deity. Importantly, you should do the necessary rituals to preserve their aura in that area.

Datuk coexisting with Lord Muniandy in Ipoh. Acculturation in form.

Commonly, worshipers offer black coffee ( Kopi O ) and traditional Malay delicacies. Lamps and incense are very crucial - incense smoke in particular. The nature of the Datuk must be understood as well. If the consciousness is that of a personality who was once a Muslim, offering of pork and alcohol is strictly taboo.

Image: Datuk Hijau in Sunway Hotel, Perai, Penang

Unfortunately, we have reduced the position of Datuks to that of a mere provider of wealth. Most seek such shrines hoping to win the lottery.

What I would recommend you to do if you pass by a Datuk Shrine : 

(1) Send immense gratitude .Every Datuk functions as a protector of a particular area. Just send immense gratitude for His compassionate consciousness. None of us are aware as to who was saved from mishaps thanks to the grace of a Datuk.

Even female personalities can function as a Datuk

(2) Look at the deity and pour love with a gesture of a smile. If you are comfortable and if it is permissible, offer simple snacks or black coffee. With time, this simple act of serving will amplify within you and you will start radiating compassion to all beings around you. This is the magic of Datuk - where He can help awaken humanity in you. This is utmost important. Love all, serve all.

A shrine with a portrait of the presiding Datuk

Sultan Abdul Samad is now a worshiped Datuk in the Bao Tian Gong temple

Actual image of Sultan Abdul Samad - Sultan Selangor V 


  1. I have read many taoist pages on datuk but you are the first to actually relate how datuk can create a sense of helping others and serving the poor and needy.

    this is why we need youngsters like you to stand in society..

    in our old days we only saw temples as place to ask things.. but we never taught to say simple thanks to god who take care of us..

    you made me realise that boy..

    your future wife is extremely lucky to have u. whoever marrying u is blessed and gifted..

  2. Very well written and explain our Asian culture in a very simple and easy to understand manner. Thank U for the marvelous contripution.keep writing.

  3. So the non muslims can worship a muslim or chinese saint in this way, very good, its the non muslims culture not to forget saints who where humans once, om dato gong nama om, pancakshara mantra.

  4. Brother I don't where you got the knowledge to said datuk gong is Muslim, Actually Muslim never pray to statue and they never making statue. How you mentioned he is malay. Datuk Gong is not Muslim he is orang cina baba.

    1. Bro, Datuk Gong can be someone of any race including Malay.
      Muslims do not worship statues - true
      But it is the non-muslims who seek Datuk Gong for help.Don't people seek bomohs and shamans,traditional healers for help ? It's the same thing - just that Datuks are no longer in the body.

  5. Hi thanks for publishing this, I would like to know whether there are any datuk gong shrines in malaysian temples in Johor bahru?
    if anyone knows of any, Thank you

    1. There will definitely be one in your very lorong and taman, outside houses or near parks.

  6. Thank you, I just went to Johor recently and found a Datuk Shrine in the Monkey Temple at Skudai

  7. Thank you very much for explaining how one should worship the Datuk Gong. Compassion and selflessness are key. I have been worshiping the Datuk in this way whom I started to worship recently. Though, I did not know this was key. May you live long and prosper.