Thursday, May 31, 2007

A New Temple has arisen in Chinatown

On the night of 30th May 2007, a new temple opened its door to devotees and visitors. In a very grand way, filled with pillars of dragons that lit the entire South Bridge Road (it was even grander than during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations!) lines of floats, dragon and lion dances paraded down the road to an audience seated near to the Tooth Relic Temple that was at the corner of South Bridge Road and Sago St.

Long queues of devotees and probably curious visitors (local and foreign) waited patiently to get into the temple. I was told that they were treated to four floors of wonder (I have yet to visit the temple, although I passed by at 5.30am on 31 May 07). Each visitor was also given a 1-kg pack of rice. And there was also a big tentage to serve free vegetarian food through out Vesak Day.

Visitors to the Temple were urged to be appropriately dressed. For those who came dressed more casually in shorts or spaghetti-strap tops, they were politely offered something to add on, so I was told by my wife who visited the Temple.

The new Tooth Relic Temple promises to add more buzz to Chinatown as tourists - local and foreign - will have one more destination to visit. For Buddhists, it would be another temple in which to meditate and to remind them of trying to achieve what Buddha has done. (^^)

This Temple has also added another dimension to the architectural landscape of Chinatown. Chinatown will never be the same again. (^^)

Friday, May 18, 2007

School Children Visit Chinatown

Took a day off from work and took some minutes to re-aquaint myself with Chinatown again. Although I live in Chinatown, I hardly see Chinatown. It's work, work and more work, outside town.

So, while waiting for my "new" barbershop to open, I took a stroll through the different streets of Ngau Che Shui (Gu Chia Chwee) - the originally Cantonese part of Chinatown. The stalls catering to the tourists were already open and doing some brisk business with the busloads of tourists visiting the Sri Mariaman Temple. Others took their time to open.

Just as I was walking along Pagoda Street, I saw something like three classes of kids from a Primary School. Wah, school excursion to Chinatown! I don't remember having such trips in my days. We visited factories then. One kid was quipping to the other and the teacher, "the stalls are not open because it is not Chinese New Year". If only they have seen Chinatown of yesteryears. (^^) I did not follow them to see if they were to visit the Chinatown Heritage Museum, which I think is a great place to visit. I love that original door of that original shophouse.

That house alone certainly brings back many memories of the hard life and struggle of the people who lived in that place, as well as thousands who have lived in Singapore during those period. Some books have been written and they could be found in the Chinatown Heritage Museum and main bookshops. Veterans like Ronni Pinsler and Geraldene Lowe-Ismail could share with you of the tales which their Amahs shared with them, and brought them to see, probably experience the Chinatown then. Geraldene has also written a book on Chinatown (which was also translated into Chinese) and she still leads tour in Chinatown, mostly to local expatriates, and increasingly, young Singaporeans searching for their roots. For many, one of their ancestors could well have lived in Chinatown.

For a glimpse of the life of Singaporean Chinese in yesteryears, Jack has written an interesting article titled: "Ah Ma and her Beliefs: The Migrant Experience and Religious Practices of a Chinese Immigrant Woman in Twentieth Century Singapore.”

Ah, with careful planning, Chinatown could well be a living "museum" housing various traditional activities that would not only preserve our traditions and customs but also share them with fellow Singaporeans and visitors. Let's hope it will not be just a tourist destination alone. It used to be a buzz of activities in the night for anyone in search of food or shopping for the locals.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tian Hock Keng celebrates Mazu's Birthday

9 May 2007, this year, was 23rd day of the 3rd Month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It was the birthday of Mazu, more popularly known to the older Chinese Hokkien people as Ma Chor Po. Tian Hock Keng, at Telok Ayer St, probably the oldest and most well preserved temple, is where Ma Chor Po resides in Singapore.

On this day, Tian Hock Keng, marked a new milestone in having a Taoist Ritual, which was not seen in as many years as I know. The day was crowded with devotees, young and old, grandpas and grandmas teaching their grandchildren about Mazu, office workers dropping by to "talk" with Mazu. Some would kneel in front of the altar "talking" to her for quite a long time.

A number followed the Taoist Priests in their rituals as they invite the other Deities and the Jade Emperor to join in the celebrations. A pair of lions came to add joy to the occasion. As with traditional practices, devotees lined up to put their share of contribution towards the "you-xiang" (donation box) as a temple assistant called out the name of the donor and called upon Mazu to bless him/her and family.

Legend has it that it would rain on Mazu's birthday, and indeed, it did.