Posted by: rbbadger | January 6, 2009

Thian Hock Keng Temple

While we’re on the general theme of houses of worship, I thought that I’d post some photos of Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore.

Built in 1842, Thian Hock Keng temple is the oldest Hokkien (a group of Han Chinese people originating in southern China’s Fujian province) temple in Singapore.  It was built to give thanks to Mazu, the Chinese sea goddess for a safe journey to Singapore by early Chinese immigrants.

This is a Daoist temple.  However, given the syncretic nature of Chinese religion, one of the most favourite Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, Avakolitesvara, known in Chinese as Guan Yin (觀音) is considered to be a deity in Daoism as well.

Here is the exterior of the temple.  There are also some interesting dragons on the roof, dragons being a favourite figure in Chinese mythology.



Here are some of the deities enshrined within the temple.  Photographs were permitted so long as you didn’t disturb people performing religious practices.  Here we have an image of the city god.  Next to him is an image of the sacred governor Kai Zheng.



During the Lunar New Year, Korean and Chinese people generally perform the ancestral rites.  In Korea, the memorial tablets are often kept at home if there isn’t a family shrine, such as the huge shrine for the royal family which exists in Seoul.  In China, sometimes they are enshrined in a family shrine and sometimes in temples such as Thian Hock Keng.  During the ancestral rites, food and drink are offered to the souls of the departed ancestors to serve them in death as they would have been served in life.  Here is a set of ancestral tablets.


Red is a favourite colour of the Chinese people.  It is seen as a lucky and auspicious colour.  Therefore, it is not at all surprising that the Chinese use red laquer in the creation of ancestral tablets.

Behind the main image of Mazu, there is the image of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.  In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is one who foregoes Nirvana in order to help sentient beings.  Guan Yin (known in Sanskit as Avalokitesvara) is sometimes depicted as having many arms and sometimes not.  This image has many arms.


While Confucianism is more of an ethical philosophy than a religion, the Daoists have added Confucius to the great Daoist pantheon.  So here is an image of Confucius (孔子).  Confucius’ philosophy played a preeminent role in the cultural development of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. 


Generally, Chinese (and Korean) temples are quite welcoming to outsiders with the provision that you don’t disturb people performing religious practices.  You are generally left free to wander the grounds on your own and appreciate the beauties of the temple.  Thian Hock Keng temple allows photography.  But again, they ask that you don’t take pictures of people praying.  Here is a view from the entrance. 




  1. […] decorations.  Daoist temples, such Thian Hock Keng temple in Singapore (you can see my photos by clicking here) can be quite colourful.  Buddhist temples here in Korea are also often elaborately decorated, […]

  2. Those pictures are way cool! You are becoming quite the photographer! Thanks for posting so consistently! Love ya lots!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: