Whenever we are in Singapore we try and visit a place we havent been before, often a place with a little history. Joining the late morning crowd on the MRT, we alighted at Tanjong Pagar, J's old stop. We wound our way through the underground walking tunnel, popped out into the already hot sunlight we headed towards the picturesque mixture of shophouses and highrise office blocks of Telok Ayer Street. Back in the early 1800s it was the main landing area used by Chinese immigrants. You can still find some of the temples and mosques travellers built to express their gratitude for their safe passage.
Detail of the temples history is etched on a granite stone at the entrance doors. The shrine, it says was replaced by a proper temple, built in 1839 and completed around 1842, by Mr Tan Tock Seng and Mr Si Hoo Keh. It cost 30 000 USD, a huge amount in those days, which was collected among the clan members and temple devotees. Chinese craftsmans were bought over from China to create and embellish, craft and adorn all without the use of nails.
Over the years, Thian Hock Keng has been restored several times. A huge restoration project begun in 1998 and completed at the end of 2000 won four architectural awards including the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage 2001 Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation Building.
The main doors, brightly painted with guardians, the sentinels, stand open. This is still an important functioning temple for the local Chinese community despite the fact many chose now to 'sail' the skies rather than the seas.
Stepping over a low ledge at the door, which not only kept any high tides at bay but also induces a small stoop or bow, takes you into a large courtyard with the main shrine, resplendent in gold, on the back wall of the main building.
Behind it, there's a shrine dedicated to Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa- the bodhisattva or goddess of mercy, an ecletic mixture of Taoism and Buddism that is not unusual in Chinese temples.
Secondary shrines and pagodas are dedicated to various personalities including Confucious, Bo Sheng Da Di- a medicine deity worshipped in the South of China, Yue Gong Niang Niang- the moon goddess- a matchmaker and granter of wishes for happy marriage, Guan Sheng De Juan- who sits beside Matzu and whos heroic death in battle give him protective powers, Qie Lan Pu Sa- a protection deity-the Bodhivista Sangharama, Cheng Huang Ye- a city god flanked by 'The Inspector of Day and Night' and 'The Lady of Cheng Huang' who teach people to do good rather than evil deeds, Tai Yang Gong- born in the East, patrols Heaven and Earth, divides the Day and Night and provids Light to brighten the world to destroy Darkness , Diseases and Enemies
Despite the busy location of the temple inside was quiet and peaceful but we were getting hot and sticky. Time to find some airconditioning.