Thian Hock Keng Hot
Thian Hock Keng is one of the oldest and most important Hokkien temple in Singapore. It was visited by Chinese immigrants giving thanks to Ma Zu (Goddess of the Sea) for their safe voyage. In 1839, under the leadership of Mr Tan Tock Seng and Mr Si Hoo Keh, the Hokkien clan built the temple in Telok Ayer Street. It also housed the clan's office and served as a meeting venue. The construction of Thian Hock Keng was completed in 1842.
Admission is free and it opens from 7:30am to 5:30pm daily.
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Peace, calm and beauty
Thian Hock Kheng Temple, 158 Telok Ayer Street exudes peace, calm and beauty
The most impressive aspect of this delightful temple is its understatement. Westerners are sometimes surprised, even put off, by the excessive gaudiness of many Asian shrines. They make their judgments based on the paltry plainness of so many local Christian churches which are little more than community halls with a cross hanging on a bare wall. They also find it difficult to deal with the seeming commercialism of worship in such places. They don’t realize that they do the same but more discreetly. Did I say discretely? I exaggerate.
Discreet. That is a word that could well be used to describe this temple: discreet. This place, like the Khoo Kong Si in Penang (my personal favourite) is remarkable. Calm, tranquil, quiet, understated: it is a temple that draws you in and does not dazzle you with excess.
It was apparently established by the first Chinese immigrants who arrived at Singapore. That of course is a story worth following up on. Go to the Singapore Chinatown Heritage Centre in Pagoda street and read all about the horrors they went through on the voyages.
Anyway, safely here, they set up the Thian Hock Keng Temple on the beach in gratitude to the Goddess of the Sea, Mazu. Beach? Well, it was once on the beach. Now the beach is a couple of kilometers south! All that you can see from the temple’s lovely old doors are buildings and more buildings. Fortunately, Telok Ayer Street itself has remained relatively original, with no high-rise buildings in the street. Sadly, beyond their roves, the powerhouses of Singapore commerce rise skywards.
So what to do? Look inwards. Marvel at the meticulously designed motifs and columns in the temple. These were all created without using nails. Wander through its several shrines, and savour its peace and calm.
It is worth a visit.
Be encapsulated in the rich culture and history of Thian Hock Keng temple. Having being built in 1842, it has been visited by generations and generations of believers. This is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore so if you are interested in the temples but do not have time to visit all of them, this would be a great choice. Entry is totally free-of-charge.
The building is very well-maintained for its age. You can take photographs outside of the temple but try not to take it inside the temple. This is out of basic courtesy and respect for the place. Up till now, believers still visit the temple so you might see some people praying and putting offerings. As such, please do keep your volumes down when in the temple. If you are a believer yourself, do feel free to pray and give offerings. The various paintings and calligraphy on the wall each depicts an unique story. You can take a look and indulge yourself in deep thoughts and thinking in the quiet environment. The intricate carvings of the pillars are really beautiful as well.
Transport to Thian Hock Keng is convenient as it is a 10-minute walk away from Raffles Place MRT Station. Be sure to come out from the right MRT exit if not you will end up at a busy business district instead.
A place holding memories of the young and old
One of the oldest chinese temples you would find in Singapore, the Thian Hock Keng temple is a place full of historical value and memories of people who once came here in the past.
As a child, i enjoy visiting the temple frequently with my grandmother on her regular trips. In the many fragments of my memories there, i remember the temple as a very interesting place. There are many chinese scriptures and drawings/pictures on the walls, or calligraphy and paintings being hung on the wall, with each a story to tell. My grandmother would explain each of them to me, as the stories revolved around filial piety or decisions made by wise men and more.
The most fascinating segment of the trip was how i was attracted strongly to the mythical creatures craved on the walls and signboards or huge pillars and ceilings. They consists of legendary creatures such as the dragon, phoenix, birds and others such as animals, floral and clouds. The exquisite cravings were already present in the beginning, when the temple was first build!
Considered a historical monument as of the present, the temple is not only a symbolic representation of the Hokkien chinese communities devotion to their gods. It is also a place holding memories for those who have been there and for those who have yet to visit the temple.