Singkawang, a small city located in West Kalimantan, is home to thousands of Dayaknese and Chinese descents. Located about 145 km north of the capital city Pontianak, Singkawang or San Khew Jong in Hakka means a town in hills nearby where the sea and the river meets. The majority of its citizens are of Chinese descents, and the culture and tradition here is a mix of Chinese and Dayaknese culture.
The term Tatung derives from Hakka language, referring to a person who is believed to be possessed by gods or supernatural spirits called Lauya. As a result, people believed that all Tatungs have a special ability or power. Sometimes people come to them to ask about their future, fortune, love life, or career.
Being a Tatung is not a choice because it runs in their blood or hereditary. Although, in some cases, a person can be a Tatung if possessed by the Lauya. Once a year, all Tatungs in Singkawang will join a parade on Cap Go Meh day, at the end of the Chinese New Year’s festivity. The festive parade is usually held two weeks (15 days) after the Chinese New Year or locally known as Imlek.
Locals believed that the Tatung parade tradition has lasted for more than 250 years. It started when Chinese people came all the way to Borneo/Kalimantan island to mine gold. They started to open an area in a very dense jungle, so they can build a village and mine gold. They also intermarried with the local Dayaknese people. However, a fever came and spread, and they believed it was caused by evil spirits. Therefore, they started to invite good spirits to help them combat the evil spirits by doing rituals and prayers. Although the fever has long gone, they continue to do the rituals until now.