Thian Hock Keng Temple

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Weather:

Time Required: 1-2 hours

Timings:

7:30 AM - 5:30 PM

Entry Fee:

No entry fees
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Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore Overview

Translating into a 'Palace of Heavenly Happiness', Thian Hock Keng is a temple and a national monument. Also known as Tianfu Temple, it was built for the worship of Mazu, a Chinese sea Goddess. This shrine is one of the oldest and most prominent shrines of the Hokkien community of Singapore. The temple first started as a little joss house built during 1821-22, at the waterfront. The seafarers and immigrants of the Hokkien community gave thanks to Mazu for a safe sea passage on their arrival to Singapore. The temple originally ran along the coastline until the land reclamation work began in the 1880's.

Starting its construction in 1839, the temple was built with the help of funds and donations collected over the years from the community. A statue of Mazu and numerous building materials were imported from China. The statue of Mazu was enshrined in the main hall of the temple in 1840. The building resources like timber, tiles and stone for the columns were recycled from ballasts in ships. The Indian community of the local Chulia street helped build the temple. As a reminder to the Indian community's kind gesture, a statue of a man who seems to be an Indian, holding a beam up at the ceiling was placed in the right wing. Eventually, the temple was completed in 1842, at the cost of 30,000 Spanish dollars.

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The history of the Thian Hock Keng Temple dates back to the 19th Century when the Singapore Government called for opportunities for the Chinese employees. This led to a lot of Chinese population flooding Singapore in search of jobs, along with which, they brought their faith and belief. This resulted in them requiring a place to worship and pay homage to their deities. This small community of Chinese immigrants raised funds and built the Thian Hock temple all by themselves. Majority of them were of Fujian descent which explains the temple's Fuji-influenced architecture.

Southern- Chinese design of architecture inspired this shrine. Thian Hock Keng is built on a square site and has a standard layout of three halls, an entrance hall, the main hall and a rear hall. It is constructed in an architectural style of a Fujian-temple. The main room consists of a single storey beam-frame structure, with brackets that support the curved roof with wide eaves. The ceilings of the entrance hall and the main hall have dragons and other decorative motifs placed on them.

The entrance hall of the shrine has a single main door and two side doors that have a high step in front. The entrances on either side are adorned with vibrant coloured tiles with peacocks, rises and the Buddhist swastika designs, representing good luck, eternity and immortality. The shrine's doors are guarded by stone lions and door Gods that are said to be the traditional sentinels of Taoist temples. The tiles of this temple are richly decorated with red, black and gold lacquered wood. The tiles also exhibit patterns of the sacred dragons and phoenixes with embellished and gilded beams, brackets and ceilings. Either side of the temple has octagonal based pagodas. The left pagoda is a shrine of Confucius, and the right one houses ancestral tablets of the Hokkien immigrants who founded the temple.

The goddess of worship here is Mazu, a Chinese Sea Goddess. She is a Fujianese Shamaness and is revered as a tutelary deity of seafarers, fishermen and sailors. Mazu has been worshipped throughout Southeast Asia, predominantly in the Chinese communities of Coastal regions. Goddess Mazu is thought to wander around the seas and protect her worshippers through miraculous interventions. Her believers generally regard her as a strong and warm-hearted queen of the heavens. Taiwan has Mazuism practised as a different faith and has her own temple festival as a huge event in the region. The largest and most popular celebration of Goddess Mazu is at Dajia and Beigang in Taiwan.

The temple provides tours for groups of community members and non-profit organizations, agencies, associations and schools during events and celebrations like the Chinese New Year, Goddess Mazu's Birthday Celebration and other significant events which is open to the general public. The information and duration are subjective of the season and requirements. The tour of Thian Hock covers the temple's history, customs and faith. It also helps one appreciate the temple's architectural ways while giving an insight into the preservation and restoration. The tour requires a pre-registration for members.

The Thian Hock Keng Temple has a bus stop at a distance of  3 minutes. Buses 970 and 186 stop here. Alight at the Telok Ayer MRT Station, Exit A, and walk for 2 minutes to reach the shrine.

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