From the outside, i would not have thought much about this plain looking temple, surrounded by towering skyscrapers, located along Philip Street.
Gazetted as Singapore's national monument in 1996, it was in fact the country's oldest Teochew temple built in 1826! Nevertheless, being ancient can only do so much to attract tourists but my first chanced experience with the temple dated back to at least 3-5 years ago.
There was a huge, empty compound that is literally unheard of in land-scarce Singapore and to have it right smack in the expensive central business district smells of taunting sarcasm for those who paid top rent just for a tiny office space.
Another drawing factor was the unique temple architecture on the walls and roof - using a special technique that translated in "cut and paste", it's like doing handicraft where you cut ceramics into small pieces and piece them up together like mosaic; albeit in 3 dimensional format.
The images of the characters were elaborate, pretty and almost puppet like! Frankly, the first time i see them; i could not take my eyes off them! I wanted to visit around two years ago but the whole temple was then closed for much needed decoration.
According to this news article, the renovation took two years; involving 45 craftsmen from China whom, i believe, painstakingly revived the temple which eventually won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation earlier this year!
Note for trigger happy individuals - the exterior was generally okay even though once you get into the temple's deities' personal abodes, you would be prevented from taking photographs as it would be disrespectful.
Honouring both Mazu (goddess of the seas) and the heavenly emperor in two shrines connected next to one another, you can see about five plaques on the roof in the above photo. The golden one with black words (曙海祥云) was bestowed by Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty in 1899 and one of only two in Singapore!
As the Chinese characters indicated, the temple was also renovated back in 1994. I would, however, like to draw your focus to that thing hanging from the ceiling. Anyone knows what that is?
Though simple, the interior was bright with large sized murals adorning the walls and unlike normal 2 dimensional painting on wall, plaster was added to create that realistic 3D effect.
I believe there is a story to tell for each scene although i have difficulties recollecting exactly which Chinese legends / myths they were despite my love for period / mythology dramas!
This would be an easier guess - the eight immortals crossing the sea!
Not everything can be salvaged from the renovations; instead of throwing them away, some of the artifacts were placed behind glass compartments so that visitors can continue to view them.
One of them for your viewing pleasure; i was actually hard up for time that day and managed to spend only about twenty minutes in the temple.
30B, Philip Street
Nearest MRT Station
8am to 5pm (Daily)
Read more about the temple at Singapore Infopedia!