Thursday, September 29, 2005

8. Po Chiak Keng Tan Si Chong Su 保赤宫陈氏宗祠

The Po Chiak Keng Tan Si Chong Su is one of the earliest clan temples in Singapore. It was founded in 1878 (some sources: 1876) by two leading Hokkien families bearing the “Tan” (Hanyu Pinyin: “Chen”) surname - Tan Kim Cheng (eldest son of Tan Tock Seng) and Tan Beng Swee (son of Tan Kim Seng). The temple is situated near to Kampong Malacca, Malacca being a state in the Malay Peninsula from which the ancestors of these two Tan luminaries came.

Today, there are more than 70 million Chinese with the surname Tan all over the world. The surname is believed to have been inspired by Fuxi (Wade Giles: Fu-hsi), a legendary figure of the third millennium BC who established his homebase called “Chen” at Huaiyang county in Hebei province, China. Fuxi is revered as one of China’s earliest sages who invented the eight symbols used in divination and created a system of surnames.

The Chinese believe that persons with the same surname originated from a common ancestry, hence the significance of the practice of ancestral worship. The founding fathers of the Po Chiak Keng temple were concerned that many of their clansmen residing in Singapore were beginning to lose touch with the customs and practices inherited from their ancestral homeland, China. Hence, this building was erected to function as an ancestral temple as well as assembly hall for the Tan clan. During the first five years of its founding, only the Tan from the Hokkien community were eligible as members. In 1883, membership was expanded to include those from the other communities.

One section of the Po Chiak Keng temple housed the ancestral tablets while another was once used as a Chinese school. The temple’s design resembles those of temples in southern China, where many of the early Chinese immigrants to Singapore had originated. Among the relics donated to this temple are a bell, a drum and an exquisite miniature marble pagoda. There is also a statue of Bodhisattva Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) in the temple.

This building was gazetted as a national monument on 29 November 1974.

15 Magazine Road
Singapore 059568

Monday, September 26, 2005

7. Qi Tian Gong 齐天宫

The Qi Tian Gong, dedicated to the Monkey God, is more than 80 years old. Situated at the corner of Eng Hoon St and Tiong Poh Road, it is an old landmark of Tiong Bahru. It probably has seen the transformation of Tiong Bahru from cemeteries and attap house slums to the SIT flats. Each year, the temple celebrates in honour of the Monkey God on the 16th of the First Lunar Month and the 16th of the Eighth Lunar Month.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

6. Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong 修德善堂

The Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong temple is located at the junction of Jurong East Ave 1 and Jurong East Street 24. It shifted there in 1986 from its former location at Jalan Seh Chuan (Bukit Timah), which it had occupied for almost a quarter of a century.

This temple is dedicated to the Teochew "Chor Soo Kong" better known as Sung Da Feng Zu Shi (Saint Ta-Fung). This deity occupies the central position on the altar in the main prayer hall. To the deity's right is the Monkey God and on his left is Jigong. There are altogether three Sung Da Feng temples in Singapore - one in Toa Payoh and the other in Bedok. And there are four in Malaysia - Pontian (Johor), Muar (Johor), Melaka and Butterworth (Penang).

This Bukit Timah Seu Teck temple is an institutional member of the Blue Cross movement. The movement started in early 1942, during the Japanese Occupation, when five Chinese "Siang Tng" ("Sean Tong") (Centre of Charity) or worshippers' groups decided to pool their monetary and manpower resources for a common goal. The five groups are: (a) Seu Teck (2) Nam Ann (3) Phoh Kiu (4) Thong Hong and (5) Thong Teck.

The common body they established is called the the Blue Cross Movement. Its mission is to collectively serve the community, without expecting any monetary reward. Among the activities of the Blue Cross movement is the establishment of free feeding centres for the needy and provision of medical centres manned by volunteers.

To that end,the Bukit Timah Seu Teck Sean Tong offers free medical consultation, including acupuncture treatment and even has its in-house dispensary. Dates and times of the "clinic's" operational hours are: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7 pm to 9 pm or thereabouts. This free clinic is currently housed in an annexe near to the main temple building. By April 2006, it will move to a new 3-storey building, next to the main temple building.

Reproduced herewith is Sung Da Feng's biography engraved on a mural in the temple hall:
History Of Our Patron Saint Ta-Fung
An Extract From the Records of Chao-Yang District

There is no record from which we can trace the native own saint Ta-Fung of Sung Dynasty. He first appeared in O-Ping Li west of Min District part of which was separated by deep broad and rapid river. Many travellers had lost their lives when they met with a storm.

Saint Ta-Fung vowed that he would have a bridge of granite built for the convenience of the public. Those who heard his pledge laughed at him. He paid no heed to the ridicule but started the fund raising campaign. He also made survey of the area, sounding of the water and estimated the number of carpenters and masons to be employed. No one knew what he was trying to do. He soon disappeared.

In the year Kuei Bao of the reign of Suan-Ho (1123 AD) Saint Ta-Fung returned all the money to the donors which was much surprise. Five years later Saint Ta-Fung came by boat. He brought with him this time food, timber, granite, labourer and all that was necessary for the construction of the bridge which was completed exactly in 1 year's time. The span of thebridge had 19 arches. There were 2 other arches at the end of the bridge. Nearest to the 2 banks of the river were not finished in the same year Saint Ta-Fung died and Mr Tsai Kung-Yuan a native of the district completed them. It is said that during the construction of the bridge, Saint Ta-Fung sent a memorial to the City God and the result the tide stopped coming for 7 days. It is indeed miraculous. A temple in his honour was set up in the name of Pao Te, repayment of kindness.

- End of Inscription -

Address:160 Jurong East Street 24
Singapore 609559
Tel: 6562-3430; 6566-1922

Thursday, September 15, 2005

5. Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Da Bo Gong Miao 佛山大伯公庙

As with every village or town in the old days, where there were Chinese, there will be at least a Chinese temple. So, in Pulau Ubin, off Changi Point, it is no exception. When you walk into "town" you will see a small temple, dedicated to Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong in Hokkien/Teochew). This is probably the other temple in Singapore that still has a permanent "opera theatre", and is much bigger.

Each year, on 15th of 4th Lunar Month (which also happens to be Vesak Day), this temple has a celebration. According to the temple keeper (Uncle Lim), Tua Pek Kong, through a medium, said that since Ubin is covered mostly by granite rock - "Fo Shan" - he would like to emulate Buddha, by first becoming a Boddhisatva. Hence he had designated this day as the day to celebrate. Former residents of Pulau Ubin and other mainland Singaporeans flock to the temple on this day. It was said that over the weekend in 2005, more than 4000 worshippers went to the island temple.

Unknown to many, there is actually a "country" temple on top of a hillock. In this temple in a very quiet and serene "plateau", there are three statues of Tua Pek Kong. Each year, during the celebrations on Vesak Day as well as the 7th Month Hungry Ghost Festival, these three statues are invited to the "town" temple to enjoy the food and watch opera.

Ack: Taoism-Singapore Email List

Monday, September 12, 2005

4. Cheo Lim Chin Sun Liap Hup Keng 石林晋山联合宫

Cheo Lim Chin Sun Liap Hup Keng Temple (Hokkien)
Shi Lin Jin Shan Lian He Gong 石林晋山联合宫

This temple complex, now almost 10 years old, has three temples sharing the same premises, on a 30-year lease. It is located adjacent to another rather famous temple complex in Singapore - the San QingGong Temple.

The first temple to the right (No. 11 Bedok North Street 5, SE 485876;Tel: 6243-31387) has as its main deity, the Jade Emperor, flanked by his two lieutenants - the Northern and Southern Bushel Gods, as well as the Tay Bu Neo Neo. Directly opposite them is Huat Chu Kong. The Five Generals, Tiger God and Tu Ti Kong are also deities worshipped there. The temple was initially located at Kampong Chai Chee.

The temple in the middle (No. 9 Bedok North Street 5, SE 485875; Tel:6441-7080) - the Kuah Na Keng temple - has the Sam Bu Ong Yah as its main deity. In the inner chamber is Goddess of Mercy who dispenses holy water whenever any devotee kneels on a cushion placed in front of the Goddess. This temple was originally from Kembangan.

In the temple to the left (No. 7 Bedok North Street 5; Tel:6443-7873), one can find Ser Chew Boon Poh in the main hall (this deity was brought over from a temple in Tampines). Next to him is ShanCai Tong Zi, relocated from a Mandai temple. In the inner hall are theTua Li Sar Ya Peh.

Cheo Lim Chin Sun Liap Hup Keng Temple
No. 7, 9 and 11 Bedok North Street 5
Singapore 485874, 4885875 and 485876 respectively

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

3. Long Shan Si 龙山寺

The Long Shan Si 龙山寺, at Race Course Road, was first built in 1917. It was a monk who brought a statue of the Guan Yin to Singapore built this temple. This temple has its origin from Nan-an County, Fujian, China.

This temple has its entrance arch a distance away from it. Could it have such a big space in the old days, or was it just an entrance from the main road to the temple. You could see the entrance arch at Serangoon Road.

In the old days, the temple has also built a school, Mee Toh School, which is next to the temple. The school children used to go to the temple to pay their respects to the Deities before going to school.

With its rich history, it is also interesting to note that this is also another syncretic temple. While the temple is dedicated to Buddha, there is Confucius and City God on one side, Zu Shen Niang Niang 注生娘娘 on another and even He-He (a twin Deity that was meant for people to pray to make up any quarrels .. a great idea!).

Sunday, September 04, 2005

2. Fu De Ci Wang Hai Da Bo Gong 福德祠望海大伯公

Fu De Ci (more commonly known as Fu Tat Chi, probably a Hakka word) Wang Hai (facing the sea) Da Bo Gong (more popularly known as Tua Pek Kong in Hokkien) is one of the oldest, if not the oldest temple in Singapore. Situated by the sea (hence facing the sea), this temple was first built in 1819. It was rebuilt in 1844 and since then had undergone some renovations.

This temple is also known by its other Chinese Name as Ke Shu Ba Yi Fu De Ci 客属八邑福德祠and a simplified English name as Fook Tek Chinese Temple.

The main deity of this temple is the Da Bo Gong, also known as Tua Pek Kong. There are also other deities in this temple. This is probably one of the oldest and few Hakka temples.

Address: 50-H Palmer Road (Off Shenton Way), Singapore 079426
Tel: 62219787
Nearest MRT Station: Tanjong Pagar Stn

Saturday, September 03, 2005

1. Hougang Dou Mu Gong 后港斗母宫

Hougang Dou Mu Gong 后港斗母宫 is probably one of the oldest temple dedicated to Dou Mu 斗母and Jiu Wang Da Di 九王大帝(Nine Emperor Gods). Situated at Upper Serangoon Road, close to the Yio Chu Kang Road, this temple comes "alive" from the first to the ninth day of the 9th Lunar Month each year.

Traditionally, this temple would go to Kuala Lumpur to receive the "Xiang Huo" and to Serangoon River to receive the Nine Emperor Gods. For devotees involved in the events of these Nine Days, they have to go on vegetarian diet.

Address: 779A Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534648
Tel: 62880779

Opening Hours: 0900H - 2030H

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Chinese Temples in Singapore

In trying to understand the Singapore Chinese heritage, Chinese temples are a great resource and a linkage to our past, present and future. In many ways, the way a Singapore Chinese thinks, he or she is still very much influenced by the Taoist heritage.

The Taoist heritage is a very colourful heritage both in customs and traditions. Many might not be able to comprehend the colours, the noises, the numerous rituals, and the spiritual aspects of the Chinese beliefs. Many practise without full comprehension as well.

With this intrigue, I set forth in search of the richness of these colours and noises in our midst, in the hope of seeking better understanding. Together, I hope to be able to visit every Chinese Taoist Temple and document it here.