Thursday, June 30, 2005

22. Ban Siew San Temple, 1880, needs conservation

Founding dialect group - Hainanese; Main diety - Kuanyin; status - needs conservation

There are not much resources on the history of this temple which was built 2 years after the Hainan Tinhou (Mazu) temple in Beach Road. My first impression of this temple when I visited it years ago, I thought it was a Cantonese temple because of its straight roof ridge and the relatively unadorned building parts. According to Geraldene Lowe, however, this is actually a Hainanese temple! There used to be a small Hainanese Kampung around the hill in the early days of this hillock and hence the founding of the temple. This would explain why some of the dieties found in this temple are not commonly found in other temples! This is the only historical Hainanese temple left in Singapore, I strongly urge the authorities to give it a conservation status. In fact, there are only a handful of Hainanese temples left in Malaysia now. Although this is a very simple building architecturally speaking, it has an old world charm throughout the interior spaces - from beautiful antique floor tiles to wall paintings and Qing furniture etc. The charms and value of a building is not judged by ornamentation, size or popularity but in the atmosphere it evokes. When I am in Ban Siew San, I can really imagine Kampong folks, mothers and amahs dressed in samfoos kowtowing earnestly before the dieties for prayers. No videos, or pictures can exactly bring you to that kind of space in time as compared to a real place that has survived the vissitudes of time. We should treasure history, authenticity and the stories they have for us.