Seniawan "Tacho" Festival
The Sarawak Gazette, November 1, 1911. (P213-214)
The 14th instant saw the culmination of the great Tacho festival at Seniawan which was held to propitiate the deities, to bring good luck and to drive away all kinds of sickness and disease.
The last festival of this kind was held at Seniawan 12 years ago and was immediately followed by a distinct rise in the price of pepper, the growing of which is the staple industry of the Kheh Chinese, who form nine-tenths of the population of Upper Sarawak.
The Ching Gey festival which was held in Kuching some 4 years ago was also succeeded by a great boom in trade following on a long depression. So it would apper that this form ofintercession is distinctly efficacious.
During the past two years the country has been suffering from cholera and a pepper disease. whilst the price of the latter commodity has aIso been very Low, and it was these circumstances which induced the Chinese to hold the festival this year. By rights this Tacho should be held once every 5 or 10 years, but apparently the Sarawak Chinese do not stick too closely to the rules of their religion and hold it whenever they think fit.
The Tacho is apparently a religious ceremony of intercession to the Trinity of Deities－namely, Nyee Kong Shong Kee, the Almighty God; Mi Tian, the God of Light; and Nyet Kong, the God of Darkness. There deities are gods in every sense of the word, being immortal, all powerful and incarnate. They were represented by three pictures which were placed on the top of a three storied altar in a specially constructed temple, and attended by Buddhist priests brought over from Singapore for the purpose. The temple was a fine edifice built after the usual plan of a joss-house and was most beautifully decorated with figures and flowers made out of papier maché.
Prayers were said before these deities three times a day. These services, called Sieu Khim, which may only be said by Buddhist priests, consisted of the incantation of prayers of intercession, which were interrupted by the ringing of a bell and frequent bowings and prostrations before the Altar, at the end of which holy water (Mat Choh Shui) was sprinkled over the congregation and also towards the altar; this was for purposes of purification. This holy water is obtained from a well selected faraway up in the hills, so as to avoid as much as possible all chance of pollution, and is then blessed by the priests. When once a well has been chosen for this purpose it may not be used for the ordinary requirements of daily life.
A picture of Buddha, called by the Chinese Fut, was placed on the lowest step of the altar and seriously reminded one of that of a Christian Saint, as it did not present the usual characteristics and perspective of a Chinese drawing, but seemed to conform more to our ideas of such. The figure was clad in a blue robe with a halo round its head and was enclosed in an ordinary gilt frame.
The ceremony of Tacho is purely a Buddhist one and may only be performed by Buddhist priests ; both the Gee Kao or Confucianists and the Sia Kao acknowledging the Fut Kow or Buddhist creed to be the highest form of religion.
During the last week of the festival no meat is allowed to be eaten and the people are continually offering up prayers and burning incense before the altar. If the ceremony is carried out strictly no women or unbelievers are allowed on the platform in front of the altar and everyone is expected to wear clean clothes. During this week men must be most particular in their conversation and practice self denial, but apparently with the exception of the fast the people were not very strict about these rules.
Opposite this temple another one not quite so elaborate had been erected to house the topekung, which had been brought there with much ceremony from the joss-houses in Kuching and the surrounding districts. Alongside the principal temple were other temporary buildings which contained what appeared to be semi-deities. These were figures some 18 feet high made of stretched on a bamboo framework and were constructed and clothed with all the fantastic methods of which the Chinese are such perfect masters. The principal of them appeared to be Sun Shin, god of the forests and hill, and Fut Muh, the virgin goddess for women. The former is the guardian and protector of people lost in the jungle and of the spirits of the dead. At midnight he was the presiding deity at the ceremony called Shi Koo, when offerings of food, clothing and prayers were made to the spirits of those departed. This ceremony was productive of a difference of opinion between the priests, who were Hokiens, and the congregation, who were Kheh. The priests maintained that it was only necessary to say prayers once before Sun shin and then, when all the prayer papers had been burned, the offerings to the departed spirits might be removed. After having said the prayers once, they returned to their domicile, from whence, after a heated debate amongst the assembled multitude, two of the elders were despatched to bring them back again. On their return they said prayers to two other semi-deities and then to Sun Shin. During this time all the clothes dedicated to the departed, consisting of coats, trousers and boots made out of paper, were burned and at the termination of the prayers a rocket went off and a mad rush took place to seize the offerings to the departed. Basins of rice, cakes and nuts were taken off by the Chinese, some of whom had brought bags with them to contain their trophies ; it was noticeable that the Dayaks and Malays contented themselves with the kajangs or leaf mats. This brought the fast and ceremony of Tacho to its close. The non-appearance of the Wayang was the cause of much discontent amongst the subscribers, and if the ceremony does not produce the desired effect people will not be surprised. We understand that more than $20,000 were subscribed, of which the greater part was obtained in Upper Sarawak.
 Ching gey可能即chingay，源自漳泉福建話的英語外來語，通常譯為妝藝，意即迎神賽會之藝陣。