Tongji (spirit medium)

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Chinese characters for tongji

Tongji (Chinese: 童乩; pinyin: tóngjī; Wade–Giles: t'ung-chi; literally: "youth diviner"; Tâi-lô: tâng-ki) or Jitong (Chinese: 乩童; pinyin: jītóng; Wade–Giles: chi-t'ung; literally: "divining youth") is a Chinese folk religious specialist, usually translated as a "spirit medium", "oracle", or "shaman".

This word compounds tong "child; youth; boy servant" and ji "to divine" (cf. fuji 扶乩 "divination; planchette writing"). Regional variants include Hokkien tâng-ki 童乩 and Cantonese gei-tung 乩童 or san-daa 神打.

A tongji or jitong is a person believed to have been chosen by a particular shen 神 "god; spirit" as the earthly vehicle for divine expression. The Chinese differentiate a wu 巫 "shaman; healer; spirit medium" who gains control of forces in the spirit world versus a tongji who appears to be entirely under the control of forces in the spirit world.

Frequently a person who will become tongji experiences themselves , at an early time in their life, to be coming under the compulsion of something to be possessed by them. The person may well resist that compulsion. Should their resistance fail, they will from time to time enter into a trance in which they may beat themselves with a nail-studded ball at the end of a cord and handle to the point that he draws blood from multiple wounds on his back. While in this trance state he will experience themselves , and the members of his community of belief will experience them, as speaking the words of that god.

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