Despite being known as a young country, Singapore does have a history dating way back. This is reflected in the early buildings in Singapore which are still standing, some which are over one hundred years old. Many of such buildings are now preserved and are historical places of worship.
Singapore has long been known for its multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religion society. Therefore, it is not surprising to find temples, churches and mosques which date many years back. There are many Chinese temples, many devoting to Buddhism or Taoism.
One of the most popular of them all has to be Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple located at Waterloo Street, which is very near, famous for its electronics and computers, Sim Lim Square and Sim Lim Tower. This temple was built in 1884 and is dedicated to the ‘Goddess of Mercy’, or Kwan Im. The temple was rebuilt in 1895 and again in 1982. It is rated one of the most famous and popular Chinese temples in Singapore, with many devotees (locals and foreigners alike) heading towards the place asking the Goddess of Mercy for luck and good health. It is also not surprising to see many asking for assistance in their marriage dates. You can also find many shops, permanent and push carts, around the vicinity, selling flowers, fruits, amulets and many more to devotees who has gone to pray to the Goddess of Mercy.
Another popular temple would be the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Buddhist Monastery. It was built in 1898 and took eleven years to complete by a local businessman. Renovation works were carried out in 1919 and 1935. It underwent a major restoration and redevelopment programme with the assistance of specialist craftsmen from China in 1991 and took ten years to complete. The Buddhist temple is a national monument and is very popular with local Buddhists. It has an elaborately decorated gateway, reached by a bridge which opens into a courtyard, and the layout of the temple are based on several Buddhist principles of the temple architecture. A recent addition to the temple is the seven storeys Dragon Light Pagoda, which is a replica of the 800 year old Shanfeng Temple Pagoda in Fujian, China.
The Burmese Buddhist Temple boasts elegant Burmese architectural style with teak carvings, marble and bronze images which dates back to more than 100 years. The temple was founded by a Burmese, who bought a 10 ton marble block from Burma, now Myanmar, and had it sculptured into a 100 foot high Buddha statue. The temple gained its present footprint in 1986, after which the copper image of the Standing Buddha was installed in March 1992. The golden pagoda at the temple can be spotted even along Pan Island Expressway.
Founded in 1989, the Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple was completed in 1992. This temple is dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine, whose image is eleven feet high and located at the main hall. It was carved in Taiwan from a single log of special wood. The Buddha wears the robes of a monk and sits cross-legged in a full lotus position. Another popular attraction of this temple is the “Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic”, one of the only five such relics in the world that has been authenticated.
Another popular and one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Singapore would be the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. Founded in 1920, it has grown dynamically to match the changing world in its Dharma propagation efforts. The buildings feature Chinese decorations, shrines and statues. The large turtle pond, gardens and the hum of prayers all blend to add great sanctity to the atmosphere. The temple is also famous for its crematorium and columbarium services for local Buddhists.
It is never complete when one discuss about Singapore’s Chinese temples if one does not mention the Thian Hock Keng Temple. It is located along Telok Ayer Street and its history dates back to the late 1700’s. Early immigrants give thanks to the Goddess of the Sea, or Ma Zu after making the difficult journey across the China Sea. With its strong Fujian community connections, the temple was building in traditional Southern Chinese architectural style, adhering to the Chinese principle of axial symmetry. Its roof is its crowning glory with curved ridges; elongated eaves with upturned Southern Fujian swallow tail end. It underwent renovations in 1998 with the help of craftsmen from China, and the most interesting fact is not a single nail was used in its timber joints and arches.