170 years ago, a small temple was built at the coast so that the freshly arrived could thank Mazu for their survival over the treacherous seas. Mazu 妈祖 was their Goddess of the Seas and the guide to their new land of hope (to earn money to bring back to Tng-Sua - Tang Shan).
As the number of immigrants increased, the need for more help for them grew. It was not just worship to Mazu but also help for the newly arrived to find a place to stay and jobs to look for. It was a community centre, the earliest to the current day community clubs.
170 years on, as the later generations of these forefathers, many of whom stayed on in this tiny island, we saw a rich heritage of Thian Hock Keng 天福宫, the temple that had a very small and humble beginning. We marvel at a piece of the ancient Chinese architecture brought all the way from China, so that we descendants could appreciate the beauty of the culture and traditions of the Chinese. That link that was forged 170 years ago, continues till this day, with many of the descendants going back to China to provide expertise in business and organisation, and increase more two-way trade.
And so on 2 May 10, Thian Hock Keng celebrated its 170th Anniversary with the launch of a book on the history of the temple (couldn't be a better timing) and an exhibition on its history too. For many of us old enough, we could recognise some of the old artifacts of the temple. The Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, RADM(NS) Lui Tuck Yew was the Guest of Honour.
In the Guest Book at the Exhibition, RADM(NS) Liu Tuck Yew thanked the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan for its sterling efforts in preserving this precious temple which is so much a part of our early history.
The who's who in the Chinese community in Singapore were present to witness the launch of the book: Nan Hai Ming Zhu Tian Fu Gong 南海明珠天福宫 and the opening of the exhibition at the neighbouring complex, Chong Wen Ge 崇文阁. The exhibition is from 2 May 10 to 9 May 10. For those who have been to Thian Hock Keng with their grandma or grandpa, you might be able to spot a thing or two at the exhibition.
In the evening, there was a concert by Deng Zhi Hao 邓志浩 from Taiwan. No one could better share the philosophy and outlook of a typical Chinese life than he did through his songs and interactions with the audience. In the almost 2 hour non-stop concert, he brought his audience through laughter and tears, sharing the sorrows, love and joys of typical Chinese families and their relationships. He even shared stories about Mazu's life and her unconditional response to people in danger. The characteristic from which we also worship Mazu for.
A great job by the organising committee of this event from Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and the Thian Hock Keng Management Committee. Keep it up! Maybe, we could still invite Deng Zhi Hao back in 10 or 15 years time (when he is 70) to sing for us. (^^)