Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Guang Ming Shan Temple (光明山普觉禅寺) for Qing Ming Festival 2014 - Honoring my Paternal Grandparents and Great Grandparents!

Waking up at 5am isn't an easy feat for any sleep-deprived individuals and i definitely did feel like shit last Sunday when the alarm rang at that ungodly time. Barely an hour later, i had parked my car along Sin Ming Drive; in full awake mode! 

Yes, it's time for the annual Qing Ming festival although this round, i decided to join my parents in paying my respects to my paternal grandparents and great parents at Guang Ming Shan Temple (光明山普觉禅寺)! 

Mom insisted i should follow this year so that i would remember the locations for future visitations; i figured the best is to capture everything in this blog so that even my cousins could benefit from this visit. 

The gigantic red-white tentage in the second photograph is in fact a temporary structure built for the purpose of the commemorative festival. An organised layout beats having tonnes of people placing the offerings all over the place! 

A map showing the two tentages in the temple. Notice the section on the lower right? There are volunteers on hand to help in your enquiry should you require any assistance.

Since we still had to wait for the rest of my uncles and aunties to arrive, i made the decision to check out tentage 2 which is nearer to the main gate of the temple. 

For a moment, i thought i have stepped into a night market which was totally bustling with activities! The scale was bigger and there were more people given its proximity to the entrance. 

Forgot to bring any offering? Fret not, you can always buy them from this booth! Note that they are limited to only non-perishables like joss papers, incense sticks etc.

Perishable items (cakes, tarts, fruits etc) would have to be brought from home. 

As this is a Buddhist temple, kindly refrain from offering meat offerings and wine! Should i ever pass away, could someone just put my ashes in a common columbarium where i can continue to indulge in my favourite pork lard and beef steak? 

Oh, by the way, please don't burn me any house or BMWs. For one, they actually cost quite expensive for something made out of paper pulp and secondly, i am not convinced that i could use them when i am in heaven, or in hell. 

Traffic was so smooth?!?! You are wrong! This side road to the monastery was restricted to only drop-offs and you are disallowed from parking unless authorised to do so! 

Another look at Tentage 2 with two HDB point blocks in the background. 

The above is one of two columbaria in the temple; supposedly the older one which housed the niche of my great grandfather before he was 'moved' to the new one.

My relatives arrived and it's time to go through the process!

Dad saying his prayers to the "Teo" ancestors and he took a bloody long time! That big pile of offerings in front of him was the combined contribution to our forefathers.

It was less than half occupied when we reached and the scene forty minutes later was vastly different! I cannot imagine how bad the crowd would be when it comes to peak periods like mid-mornings and late afternoons! 

普同塔 - the newer pagoda that housed the ashes of my great grandfather. 

It was spanking clean and fully air-conditioned!!!! Damn, the temperature inside was conducive enough for me to fall asleep if i have a blanket to cover myself comfortably. 

The floor plan for level 3 - note the similarity in using blocks to denote the location of the niches! We only have the niche number but no one could accurately recollect the block number. 

Nevertheless, we eventually found the niche of my great grandfather!

张水浪 - the name of my great grandfather who passed away in 1950. For my paternal cousins, note that the niche is located on level 3, block 140, niche number 77529. When you are there, pay your respects to his next door neighbour who was also our grand uncle. 

Even though I would have loved to cover more on the columbarium, i think it would be better to leave it for another day given how tired i was!

Interested in this "condominium" and would like to invest in one unit? Pricing as above for your necessary reference please. Note - unlike housing for the living, high rise units for the dead are cheaper since there's no lift for your descendants to pay their respects. 

普安塔 - the older columbarium. 

Ventilation wasn't as good and fans were placed to accommodate the high volume of visitors. Do keep in mind that both columbaria do not allow you to bring in incense sticks and offerings. 

Compared to the other columbarium, the housing here was more competitive and the unit size was more cramped; imagine each level was sub-divided into four platforms! 

Each block also stretched all the way to the ceiling and the only way for a family member to say their prayers directly is to make use of the step ladder. Please be cautious and approach a volunteer to hold the ladder if you visit alone. 

To save energy, make use of the switches to light up the respective levels. Contrary to what was written, the urns don't light up although i would find it pretty cool to have the urns glowing! 

The mother praying to my great grandmother who passed away in 1978 when my mom has already married my dad; i don't remember her as i was born in 1980 although i did recollect some family photographs of her grand funeral. 

陈珠 - oh, my great grandmother was a Tan! Again for my cousins, her niche is on level 2 of Pu An Ta, block B, unit 370. 

Lastly, the urns for my grandparents, both of which i have fond memories of. They were so in love with each other that it only seemed appropriate to house them next to one another. Location: Level 2 of Pu An Ta, block HA, unit 293 and 294. 

Out of the building and time for the burning of paper offerings! 

Crowd has built up, as expected! Thankfully, we had already secured the table right in front! Look at the massive crowd and the smoke laden atmosphere caused by the lighted incense sticks!

While my relatives went to the washrooms, i proceeded to the temple compounds to check out the premise and boy did i feel awed by the traditional Chinese architecture of Singapore's biggest temple! 

A second visit is a MUST! 

On our way to the burner which was said to be cleaner and doesn't emit as much pollution as the conventional method. Location: at the nearly completed multi-storey carpark. 

To prevent a stampede, barriers were erected to control the flow of traffic. For the elderly who could not climb much stairs, please keep in mind that there is a lift you could use. 

This was it. Someone would consolidate the offerings and burn them. I guess an advanced technology has its difficulties in operation; bet the temple would not want you to accidentally fall into the device. Furthermore, it would be more efficient to burn in big batches rather than individually.

I guess technology is secondary when the main issue on hand is whether it is necessary to "burn" the offerings. The above article articulates that burning of joss paper (or paper money) is not encouraged in Buddhism and even the lighting of incense sticks is merely symbolic in nature. My opinion is that treating your parents and / or grandparents better when they are alive is of much more significance than burning more houses and paper money when they are no longer in this world. 

Well, that's my opinion and i am not saying that those who are currently burning houses and paper money are wrong. I can understand that this culture of burning is carved deep into our Chinese bones and it would take at least a few generations to eradicate this practice. 

Walking back to where i parked my car! The above building was the crematorium where my paternal grandmother was cremated and from my understanding, it is still in operation. 

The chimney of the new-age eco friendly burner i touched on a few paragraphs above. 

We entered from gate 5 earlier this morning which can be quite hard to find in the dark, especially for one who has never known the existence of it. 

For us, we parked near to Land Transport Authority building. Parking at this area near the Sin Ming industrial estate might be easier than along the road (parallel to Bishan Ang Mo Kio park) leading to the main temple entrance.

Directions as above from my car to gate 5! 

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