Thursday, July 28, 2005

19. Hainan Mazu Temple, 1878, rebuilt

Founding dialect group - Hainanese; Main diety - Mazu; status - demolished & rebuilt

The Hainanese community is one of the smaller dialect groups in Singapore. The Hainan Clan was formed in 1854 with their first clan house(1857) setup in a shophouse along Malabar Street. In 1881, 3 years after the new temple was built, there were 8,319 Hainanese in Singapore. They were the 4th in size after Hokkiens, Teochews and Cantonese. There were only 6,170 Hakkas then. Now according to statistics in 1990, the Hainanese population was 0.3% less than the Hakkas. Four other dialect groups forming the real minority Chinese dialect groups are Foochow, Heng Hua, Shanghainese and Hock Chia respectively. The scale of the original temple along Beach Road resembles the Hainanese temple in Penang (still standing ). In terms of architectural style and temple layout, this Hainanese temple really looked like a Cantonese temple! However, in Cantonese temples, the front entrance would normally be a brick wall with an entrance in the centre. The frontage of the Hainan temple were sealed by timber doors with a triple door-entrance much like a Hokkien temple. Interestingly, the Hainanese language itself is related to the Hokkien dialect group. The picture on top shows the rear hall of the old temple. This picture has always been confused by local writers with the Thian Hock Keng temple. From the architectural style and the chinese characters that suggests Hainan, this altar in the picture is more likely to be that of the Hainanese Tian Hou Temple and Clan house in Beach Road.

The rear hall of the temple along Beach Road was incorporated to the back of the Hainan Association Building in 1962. The altar and candle stands can still be seen in the rebuilt temple today. For more information, see