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Goddess of Mercy Temple, Penang Overview

The Kuan Yin Temple, or the Kuan Yin Teng in Georgetown, Penang is devoted to the Goddess of Mercy and is one of the main centers of worship for the Chinese Taoists in the city. The temple is also home to the worship of Ma Chor Ooh, the patron saint of seafarers who was deeply regarded by early Chinese settlers.

The Kuan Yin Temple is perfect to visit for those interested in local culture and heritage. The temple has three wells; the two visible ones have long since fallen into disuse while the third hidden well is believed to have medicinal properties. Being such a popular spot for the locals, the Goddess of Mercy Temple is also surrounded by a variety of food stalls and travellers can gorge on many different kinds of delicacies while admiring the temple bustling with activity. 

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Structure of Kuan Yin Temple

The structure of the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, being a Chinese Taoist temple, is reflective of the principles of Feng Shui. The temple is located on a small hill, which is believed to represent a dragon in Feng Shui. This makes it an auspicious choice of site for a temple, as according to Feng Shui. 

At Kuan Yin Teng, one finds two wells that have now fallen into disuse. These are believed to represent the “eyes of the dragon”. Following Feng Shui, it is believed that there is a third well beneath the front altar of the Goddess is the dragon’s “third eye”. 

The temple in itself is magnificent and imposing, with its huge doors depicting the images of deities and pillars with carvings of entwined dragons. 

Historical Significance

Kuan Yin Teng is viewed as the mother temple for the Chinese Taoists in the city of Penang. Although it is now devoted to the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin, it is interesting to note that at the time of its construction in the early 18th century, it was actually the place of worship of a sea god. Evidently, with the shift in the economy from naval trade to urbanisation, there was also a shift in the values the people held as most important, and therefore the Goddess of Mercy became the primary deity in the 19th century. 

The Temple of the Goddess of Mercy has managed to stand up through many painful and even violent events over the course of its tempestuous history. It survived several terrorist attacks and even the bombing by the Japanese Imperial Army. The fact that the temple still stands after all these attacks adds to the local stories about the powers of the deity protecting the temple. 

How to Reach Kuan Yin Temple

The temple is located on Street of Harmony, formerly known as Pitt Street, in George Town, Penang. Some particularly adventurous travelers choose to navigate the tricky roads of George Town. Parking is more often than not cheap and available. There are also many local walking tours to the temple. To fully immerse oneself in the experience, make use of the numerous trishaws available on the streets of George Town. 

Best Time to Visit

The Kuan Yin Teng sees throngs of worshippers at all times of the year, being one of the most popular temples among the Chinese Taoists of Penang. The temple is especially crowded with worshippers on what are known as the Temple Days and the days of the feast of the temple Goddess which are determined by the lunar calendar. 

It is suggested that tourists intending to absorb the culture and architecture of the place visit the temple when it is relatively more peaceful, like the afternoons. On the other hand, those who wish to embrace and immerse themselves in the festivities and the colourful processions can visit the temple during the auspicious days. Puppet shows and Chinese operas are commonly presented on these days in the name of the Goddess. 

About Kuan Yin

The Goddess Kuan Yin is associated with unconditional love. Countless women come to pray to the deity to be granted with fertility. Seekers of divine help in this matter can pray to the goddess and the other deities of the temple. 

With a temple that’s been around for as long as the Kuan Yin Teng, there are bound to be stories and rumours about the city, its people and the deities. Those intrigued by history and legend can look for the elderly caretakers at the temple. If caught at the right moment, they can be a source of some very interesting information.

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