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Timings : 7:30 AM - 5:30 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hours

Entry Fee : No entry fees

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Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore Overview

The Thian Hock Keng Temple is Chinatown's oldest and most important Hokkien temple, translating into a 'Palace of Heavenly Happiness. Also known as Tianfu Temple, it was built for the worship of Mazu, a Chinese sea Goddess. A tranquil refuge, the beautiful temple features highly symbolic architectural designs: the stone lions standing at the entrance supposedly ward off evil spirits, and phoenix and peony paintings (in the central hall) epitomizes peace and good tidings.

Built between 1839 and 1842, the Thian Hock Keng Temple was a favourite landing point for Chinese traders and sailors. The seafarers and immigrants of the Hokkien community gave thanks to Mazu for a safe sea passage on their arrival to Singapore. While at the magnificent temple, soak in the traditional Chinese architectural elements - the glaring porcelain pieces adorning the roof ridges, intricate sculptures of dragons, Pheonix and deities. The other intriguing architectural marvels of Thian Hock Keng Temple are the Scottish gates and Dutch tiles.

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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.

Starting its construction in 1839, the stunning 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.

Thian Hock Keng Temple Telok Ayer
Thian Hock Keng Temple at night (Source)

Architecture of Thian Hock Keng Temple

Inspired by the Southern-Chinese design of architecture, 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.

Thian Hock Keng Temple Courtyard
The main courtyard (Source)

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 at Thian Hock Keng Temple are richly decorated with red, black and gold lacquered wood exhibiting 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.

Thian Hock Keng Temple
A corner of the temple housing a Buddha statue (Source)

Thian Hock Keng Temple Deity

The goddess of worship at Thian Hock Keng 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.

Thian Hock Keng Temple
The central shrine (Source)

Temple Tour

Temple tours are available 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.

How To Reach Thian Hock Keng Temple

Bus: Board bus number 970 or 186 and alight at the Thian Hock Keng Temple bus stop, located at a 3-minute walking distance.

MRT: Alight at the Telok Ayer MRT Station, Exit A, and walk for 2 minutes to reach the shrine.

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