Sunday, October 09, 2005

10. Hong San Si Temple 凤山寺

The Hong San Si at Mohamed Sultan Road was built by Chinese settlers from Lam Ann/Nam-wa (in Minnan hua; Nan-an in Mandarin) county in Fujian province, China. It is to honour Siong Ong Kong aka Kong Teck Choon Ong or Guang Ze Zun Wang in Mandarin, the God of Filial Piety, also known as God of Fortune. This patron saint of the Nan-an people was recorded to have lived during the later Tang dynasty (c AD 923) and was believed to have sold himself to slavery to pay for the upkeep of his parents’ graves. His birthday is celebrated on the 22nd day of the 2nd lunar month.

In the past, whenever the people of Nan-an arrived in a new territory, be it Singapore, Penang or Brunei, they would pray at the Hong San Si to thank the patron saint for their safe arrival. In fact, majority of the temples built by the Nan-an people tend to be identical in design as well as bear the same name, Hong San Si which translates into English as Phoenix Hill temple. Usually the temple would be sited on a hill overlooking a river or sea – elements said to constitute favourable “fengshui”.

Located on a hill, this Mohamed Sultan Road temple is believed to be one of the earliest temples erected in Singapore. Its view of the Singapore River is now somewhat obscured by skyscrapers dotting the scene. Completed in 1836, and later rebuilt at a cost of S$56,000 (a princely sum then) between 1908 and 1912, this temple features some exquisite design elements such as gilded wood carvings on its beams, calligraphy and dragon motifs on its columns and pillars. Images of the 8 immortals of Taoism are etched on the ceiling of the altar hall. The temple was gazetted as a national monument on 10 November 1978.

An apocryphal story has it that all Hong San Si temples defy full completion. Somehow or other, one part of the temple, usually the roof, would leak on rainy days. This was taken to signify the displeasure of the patron saint’s father-in-law who was touted to be a malevolent magician who disliked his son-in-law.

The Nan-an association in Singapore shares the same premises as the temple. The association currently has about 1,500 members. Any Nan-an descendant below the age of 45 who wishes to be a member pay a one-time subscription fee of S$110; those above 45, pay S$150.

There are several other Hong San Si temples in Singapore, one of which is located at 17 Lorong Melayu, Off Changi Road (tel: 6742 4318) – this one is officially known as the Hong San Si Temple Society (registration date: 14 February 1984). Another, the Hong San Gong is located at Airport Road while the Hong San Tan is at Woodlands Industrial Estate 4.


Address: 31 Mohamed Sultan Road
Singapore 238975
Te: +65 6737 3683

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