Saturday, February 05, 2011

Chinese New Year in the temples of Chinatown Singapore

There were just too many activities, even in a tiny place like the Chinatown in tiny Singapore. But since I have set myself a tradition of visiting Chinese Temples within the greater Chinatown and ending up in the Guan Yin Temple at Waterloo St, I continued to do so for this new year. The exception is that I got along a few more kakis (friends) to join in. So with some 5 cars led by one Frenchman on his trusty iron horse, we went "templing" a word coined by our famous heritage tour guide (also known as the oldest and longest street walker of Singapore) Geraldene Lowe.

Outside Thian Hock Keng

The tour started in this little known hillock known to the locals as Ku Ah Sua 龟仔山 (or Ku Kia Sua) in Hokkien or Gui Zai Shan in Mandarin where there was a cluster of three temples. With a short drizzle of fine rain droplets, we went in a convoy (that left through different ways and parked at different locations) to Thian Hock Keng 天福宫. In Chinatown, Thian Hock Keng must be the grandest in ushering the Chinese New Year. It was moving towards what it was like some 50 years ago, when I went to the temple with my Mum in a sa-lian-chia (trishaw). Less smoky these days, thanks to the hard work put by the temple members in removing the joss sticks as the joss urns filled up (and there are less urns these days compared to 5 decades ago) and the acceptance of the people these days, there was more than devotees offering their first joss sticks. Lion Dance, Dragon Dance, Rabbit puppet, Cai Shen 财神 (God of Wealth - an operatic costume worn by a guy from an event company I suppose), and this year, the Techno Tai Zi 太子 (a trend started in Taiwan, the giant puppets of the famous Third Prince). Devotees and tourists mingled, praying and watching. Some locals brought along their foreign friends.

Entrance to Wak Hai Cheng Beo

In my entourage, we have friends (who are researchers as well) from France, UK, USA, Japan, Kenya and Malaysia. And within the groups of locals - Chinese, Malays, and Indian too. There were also undergrads who were learning "hands-on"or rather using all their senses such as visual, audio and smell! Taste too. In Wak Hai Cheng Beo (粤海清`庙 Yue Hai Qing Miao), there were the Chinese Olives offered to devotees. The significance of this to the Teochew is in the words "Chi Poh" (green treasure?)

Wang Hai Da Bo Gong Temple

A little out of the epicentre was Wang Hai Da Bo Gong 望海大伯公 temple, which is a Hakka temple. It is at Palmer Rd, off Shenton Way. And then, we ventured further towards Beach Rd, the enclave of the Hainanese. And inside the Hainanese Association building  (actually, the building was built in front of the temple which was there first) was the Hainanese Mazu Temple (known as Tian Hou Gong 天后宫).

The grand finale for our tour was the Waterloo St Guan Yin temple where there was still a sizeable crowd at 3am. A visit to the Guan Yin temple is not complete without hopping over to the Krishna Temple to offer our prayer of respects.

No comments: