Thian Hock Keng Temple
Address: 158 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068613
Opening Hours: 7:30-17:30
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Located in the Telok Ayer Street, Thian Hock Keng Temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore. Built in 1840, Thian Hock Keng Temple has a history of more than 180 years. Telok Ayer Street was near the sea in the 19th century. Telok Ayar means bay in Malay. Due to the Sea Reclamation, Thian Hock Keng Temple is no longer near the sea now. And it is now five blocks away from the coastline. It was formerly the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan. Built by Singaporean Chinese, it is a National Key Cultural Relic Protection Unit.
As a large-scale temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple’s architecture style is familiar with Chinese temples. And the glazed tile cornices are decorated with dragon patterns. Moreover, the building materials such as granite pillars and wooden altars used to build the temple are all shipped from Fujian, China, and even the gods enshrined in the temple were shipped from China in 1840.
Amazingly, no nails were used in the original structure of Thian Hock Keng Temple. The main hall of Thian Hock Keng Temple is dedicated to Tian Fei, the god of sheltering navigation in a red robe. Generally. Chinese people call Tian Fei the Queen Mother, while Minnan people in China love to call her Mazu. Therefore, Thian Hock Keng Temple is also called Mazu Palace.
The History of Thian Hock Keng Temple
In the early 19th century, Many people along the coast of China take risks to make a living. When sailing in the vast sea, they pray for Tian Fei's protection in their hearts. They think that Tian Fei's blessing is very effective, so they create an idol of "Tian Fei" and imagine that she is a god in a red robe. When the Thian Hock Keng Temple was not totally finished in April, 1840, Chinese in Singapore spent huge sums of money to hold an unprecedented celebration to welcome Tian Fei to Singapore from China.
Thian Hock Keng Temple has been repaired for many times during these years. In 1906, members of Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan donated to renovated Thian Hock Keng Temple. In 1907, this temple even attracted the attention of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty. He inscribed the words Bo Jing Nan Ming for Thian Hock Keng Temple, which means the Gentle Waves over the South China Seas. This plaque is currently on permanent display at the National Museum of Singapore. In 1940, side halls and Tangshe were added in the both sides of the temple.
In 1973, Thian Hock Keng Temple was listed as National Historic Site. And it was repaired in 1974. In 1998, it cost more than 4 million Singapore dollars to complete this huge restoration project which lasted for three years. In 2001, Thian Hock Keng Temple was reopened. It won 4 awards after a large-scale restoration in 2001, including the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Awards for Ancient Architecture. Nowadays, we have better transportation like plane. But many Singaporeans go to the Thian Hock Keng Temple to pray for safety before they set out on a long journey.
What to Visit at the Thian Hock Keng Temple
The shape and wooden frame structure of the palace pavilion of Thian Hock Keng Temple are not nailed. The architectural techniques and materials of Thian Hock Keng Temple come from Quanzhou, which is an orthodox Minnan-style temple building. From carved beams, painted pillars and ornaments to painted gate gods, the whole construction project is very elegant. When visiting Thian Hock Keng Temple, you can appreciate the beauty of the architecture, the layered roofs, the rich roof decorations, the wood carvings between the eaves and beams, the stone carvings on the pillars on the walls and so on.
The inscriptions in Thian Hock Keng Temple, such as the Plaque of the Establishment of Thian Hock Keng Temple and the Plaque of the Reconstruction of Thian Hock Keng Temple, as well as many plaques, are precious materials for studying the history of Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.
Thian Hock Keng Temple is different from other temples in that the resplendent back hall not only enshrines the statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, but also a 1-meter-high sitting statue of Confucius. The two statues stand opposite each other at a distance. Avalokitesvara and Maitreya Buddha are on the left and right of the statue of Confucius. And statues of Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are in front of the statue of Confucius.
How to get to Thian Hock Keng Temple
Buses: Take bus 10, 57,145,167 and 190
Subway: Take MRT and get off at Raffles Place MRT Station or Telok Ayer MRT Station