Thursday, November 03, 2005

2. Fuk Tak Chi, 1820, conserved

Founding dialect group - Cantonese/Hakka; Main diety - Tua Pek Kong; status - conserved, converted into street museum, diety evicted

This was the oldest Topekong Temple in Singapore. Built in 1824, 25 years after the oldest Topekong Temple in Malaysia, the Tanjong Tokong Tua Pek Kong Temple. The siting of the temple did not follow spring from the instructions of a fengshui master, but rather, a more colourful tradition of spirit worship (nonetheless, fengshui was good as the temple was facing the sea and backed by hills in the early days). The tale goes that in about 1820, a corpse floated on the banks of the present site of the temple. A joss house emerged gradually as more and more people paid respects to the deceased elder. In folk Chinese beliefs, the spirit will wreak havoc if not appeased by joss and other offerings. In return, favours can be asked from the spirits. Perhaps the numerous prayers from sinkehs of Hakka and Cantonese origins did get answered and a proper temple was duly erected by 1824 (incidentally, the second oldest Topekong temple in Singapore, Palmer road Topekong Temple, shared a similar founding story at the same period). The local name for the temple was extremely poetic - it was known as the 'Lips-of-the-Sea' temple. Architectural wise, the temple has a Cantonese temple layout with two tiers of entrance doors. In the past, the inner doors will be closed except on festive occasions as these doors were meant for the spirit diety and not for people like us. The granite columns were of Cantonese origins. Due to its popularity, even Hokkiens contributed to the temple (which is strange as immigrants from Guangzhou and those from Fookien were in intense rivalry) .The expansion of the temple in 1869 was attributed to Cheang Hong Lim , a Hokkien tychoon). The beautiful Hokkien timber trusses and the gently sloping roof profile was the result of this expansion. The lips of the sea have receded far from the temple now and in place of the image of Tua Pek Kong is a model of a Chinese junk. Very soon, this recenty converted street museum will become a teahouse. Who would have known that this used to be the oldest Tua Pek Kong Temple in Singapore ? Perhaps its better to erase our coolie past, its got no value in a meritocratic society.

For more information on the origins of Tua Pek Kong worship (in Chinese), see