Sunday, May 31, 2009

30. Chwee Hean Keng 水显宫 (Shui Xian Gong)

This is one of the few temples dedicated to Sam Tiong Ong 三忠王 (San Zhong Wang), deities from the late Song Dynasty, Wen Tian-Xiang 文天祥, Lu Xiu-Fu 陆秀夫 and Zhang Shi-Jie 张世杰. This temple, located at Zion Road, is standing on a piece of land that has been en-bloc for redevelopment. This temple has been here for at least more than 70 years, witnessing the changing tributary of the Singapore River - when the descendants of the great tongkang builders from China continued their tradition for the busy Singapore River further downstream, the big Bukit Ho Swee fire, of which it stood while the surrounding attap houses burnt down, and how the "phoenix" rose from the fire in the forms of HDB flats, and it itself now might not survive the demolition ball.

Inside this temple, there was a framed picture dedicated by the Lu Clan Association, showing a statue of Lu Xiu-Fu, with a brief history of the three matyrs of the Song Dynasty. I reproduce it here for better understanding:

Wen Tian-xiang, Lu Xiu-fu, and Zhang Shi-jie were the three patriotic officials of the late Song 宋Dynasty period. In 1275 A.D., the Yuan 元 army came south to invade China. The three of them organised more than 10,000 volunteers in the capital city of Southern Song 南宋, Lin-an  临安(present Hang-zhou 杭州, to fight the enemy. In 1276 A.D., Wen Tian-xiang was appointed the Chief Minister in charge of the non-military affairs, and Lu Xiu-fu the Chief Minister in charge of military affairs. Later, when the capital city was occupied by the Yuan army, they led the troops, retreating to coastal provinces including Zhe-jiang 浙江, Fu-jian 福建 and Guang-dong 广东.

They continued the struggle with the Yuan army proclaiming Zhao-shi 赵是 and Zhao-bing 赵昺as successful emperors. In 1278 A.D., Wen Tian-xiang was captured after this troops were defeated. In prison, he wrote the famous Zheng-qi song 正气歌 to express his sense of patriotism and loyalty, resisting the threats and briberies of the Yuan regime. In 1283 A.D., he died in prison heroically. In 1279 A.D., Lu Xiu-fu and Zhang Shi-jie escaped to Ya-san 崖山 in Guang-dong province, together with the young emperor Zhao-bing. The Yuan troops were hot on their heels. The situation was made worse by a typhoon. Zhang Shi-jie attempted a break-through with his troops. His ship capsized and he was drowned. Lu Xiu-fu realised that the situation had become hopeless. Carry emperor Zhao-bin on his back, he and his wife ended their lives by jumping into the sea. Later, the people admired the patriotism of these three great officials and worshipped them as the three patriotic lords of the Song Dynasty.

This temple carries with it its stories, most of which would be lost because all are orally transmitted down the generations. I was told that this temple was a result of an exchange of two temples between San Zhong Wang and Guang Ze Zun Wang. As it turned out Guang Ze Zun Wang's temple further down the river was burnt down and this temple was most of the time indunated with flooding water, especially during the extreme high tide. Could well be a myth.

It was almost like a temple as a stranger in its own surrounding as the residents moved to various parts of Singapore. But each year, during its festive days (9M16), the loyal devotees remember and would return to pay respects to their three patriotic lords, a constant reminder of what they should be.


Monday, May 18, 2009

29. Guan Hock Dian 圆福殿 (Yuan Fu Dian)

Also known as Tua Kang Lai Temple (because it is near to a canal), this 100+ year old temple is now the witness to the rapidly evolving Singapore, in a sea of modern terrace houses and tall condominiums. In its days, it was surrounded by attap houses where most of the villagers were said to come from a same area in AngKuei (Anxi) in China. Most of them have the Chua (Cai) surname.

The main Deity of this temple is Dang Kong Jin Lin 董公真人(Dong Gong Zhen Ren). This Deity, from the statue and a framed drawing, looks like a Buddhist monk. This temple was the centre of worship to the village in the old days and is said to be well known as far as Jurong and Changi. With the support of villagers and devotees, the temple was rebuilt and renovated many times to what it is today. The soggy ground during rainy days were concretised. This is probably the only temple in Singapore with the most well kept (and renovated) permanent opera stage.

There are five Deities on the main altar, and Guan Yin on the side. The five deities are: Xie Tian Da Di 协天大帝 (Guan Gong), Wu Gu Zhen Xian 五谷真仙, Fu Xi Xian Di 茯羲仙帝, Fan Hou Xian Shi 范侯仙师, and Dong Gong Zhen Ren 董公真人. Will need Bro Jave to enlighten us more about the deities, especially Fu Xi Xian Di, Fan Hou Xian Shi and Dong Gong Zhen Ren.

The temple festive dates are:

5M08 & 08: In honour of Xie Tian Da Di 协天大帝

8M08 & 09: In honour of Wu Gu Zhen Xian 五谷真仙, Fu Xi Xian Di 茯羲仙帝, Fan Hou Xian Shi 范侯仙师

11M09 & 10: In honour of Dong Gong Zhen Ren 董公真人

The Location:
Guan Hock Dian 圆福殿
Yuan Fu Dian
Tua Kang Lai Temple
14 Jalan Kabaya
tel: 64667423

Saturday, May 16, 2009

28. Tian Teck Keng 天德宫 (Tian De Gong)

Tian Teck Keng has its origin in a kampong behind the Rochor Tua Pek Kong Temple, off Balestier Road. In the old days, when there were no temples, the families of the village would come together each year to celebrate the "deity of the village" and they would pua-puay (using the divination blocks) to seek for Lor-Chu (head of the joss urn). In this village, they did the same for Nezha - Lian Hua San Tai Zi 哪吒 莲花三太子. Whoever got the lor-chu will bring home the statue of Lian Hua San Tai Zi and the joss urn home to worship the deity till the next year. And so, the Deity made his round of the homes in the village, depending on who is keen to "apply" to host him. The TiKong (Jade Emperor) urn dated 1922 still exists today. This means probably the practice was carried out way before that. The temple has just celebrated its 87th Anniversary this year, 2 May 2009 (4M08).

Later, it was decided that there should be a more permanent place for Nezha and so, they built a wooden hut under the Spirited Tree in the same compound as Tua Pek Kong but had to move to behind the temple, renting a space from Hokkien Huay Kuan. 

Some 16 years ago, under the urban renewal programme, the temple in wooden structure had to go. With some compensation, it moved to 37 Kim Keat Lane where it stayed for 8 years. It then moved to Geylang Lorong 3 (the famous temple squatters) where it stayed for 3 years before moving to the current temple at Tampines Link.

The temple now has 44 years to stay put in this place until the expiry of the lease. The current temple is in a bigger temple complex housing the other two temples, Poh An Keng (Bao An Gong) and Kao Tiao Kio (Jiu Tiao Qiao) Temple.

95 Tampines Link #01-03  
Singapore 518486
Tel: 6787 9618
Fax: 6466 6863

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Book: Through the Bamboo Window

You might wonder what the Chinese temples in Singapore were like in 1950s. Thanks to the Singapore Heritage Society and additional hardwork put in by the original author of this book "Chinese Temples in Singapore", Dr. Leon Comber, this book combined with Dr. Comber's other books were put together and reprinted as "Through the Bamboo Window". And now, you have a chance to look through the bamboo window to what Chinese temples were like in Singapore in the 1950s.

Some of these temples are still around. Some were gone. It would be a delight taking this new old book on a tour of the mentioned temples and comparing what they are today. The book is now available at all major bookstores in Singapore and through the internet as well.

Thanks to the observant eyes of this "angmoh lang" (the Hokkien description of a caucasian), we have part of the history of Singapore temples captured and frozen through time.