Wednesday, November 30, 2005
17. Wak Hai Cheng Beo (Yueh Hai Ching Temple) 粤海清庙
Reputed to be the oldest temple established by the Teochew community in Singapore, this building came under the management of the Ngee Ann Kongsi, a Teochew association, in 1845. It was gazetted as a national monument in 1997.
A large part of the temple was constructed with rosewood imported from China. Intricate designs of Chinese legendary figures can be found on the walls and eaves of the building. There is even a wooden plaque presented in 1907 by Emperor Guang Xu of the Qing dynasty hanging in the temple.
Although the temple is centuries-old and showing signs of wear-and-tear, it still attracts a sizeable number of devotees and tourists, many of whom would marvel at the majestic courtyard and the fine craftsmanship evident throughout the building. No photo-taking is allowed inside the temple.
The temple has two halls - one devoted to Tian Hou Gong (left, as you walk towards the temple) and the other to Shang Di Gong (on the right). Among the deities at the Tian Hou Gong is Zu Shen Niang Niang, a goddess favoured by couples hoping for a child and parents seeking blessings from the goddess for their children. The main deity, however, is Tian Hou Sheng Mu (Ma Chor/Mazu/Goddess of the Sea/Heavenly Mother). To her right is Long Wei Sheng Wang and on her left is Gan Tian Da Di.
At the Shang Di Gong, the main deity is Xuan Tian Shang Di (Heavenly Father) and in front, to his left, is the Tai Sui.
The temple sees many devotees on the 1st and 15th day of the month, as well as on the 3rd and 23rd day of the third lunar month, when the birthdays of the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are celebrated. Some devotees would buy the “pyramid” joss stick (the Hokkiens call it “pagoda” joss-stick), paste their name inscribed on a piece of red paper onto the joss-stick, then hand it to the temple official to hang in the courtyard.
On the eve of Chap Goh Meh (15th day of the first lunar month), crowds can be expected. Extra containers would be placed around the courtyard for devotees to burn their offerings. The heady scent of sandalwood emanating from the lighted pagoda joss-sticks above would fill the night air. At the hall of the Tian Hou Gong, flags and lanterns would be placed on the altar. Devotees wishing to bring these objects of veneration home would have to seek the Gods’ favour by tossing two kidney-shaped divination blocks. Only if consent is granted could they bring either object back, and the devotees would also equip themselves with joss-sticks which have to be kept alight throughout the journey. Thus some devotees would bring along extra sets of joss-sticks as replenishment, or simply carry an extra long one.
Another major celebration at the Wak Hai Cheng Beo takes place towards the end of the year when thanksgiving prayers are made to the Tai Sui and Confucius. A set of prayer paraphernalia (comprising a big bundle of joss-paper and 3 joss-sticks) costs S$6.00 for the Tai Sui and S$2.50 for Confucius (a smaller bundle of joss-paper and 3 joss-sticks).
The statue of Confucius, depicted here as a mandarin with a bushy black beard and holding an ancient booklet, is just in front of Xuan Tian Shang Di. He is a favourite with school-children – one by one, the children, holding their bundle of joss-paper and joss-sticks, would kneel before Confucius as the temple official chants a prayer in Teochew. That done, the child would plant the joss-sticks at Confucius’ altar before consigning the joss-paper, on which their name and school had been written, to the flames. In return, the children would be presented with a pencil, exercise book and ruler, and the blessed assurance of Confucius.
30B Phillip Street