PMB Monumental Walking Tours: Hong San See

Last Sunday, I went for my second PMB monumental walking tour ‘A Walk of Faith’. Our meeting point and first stop was Hong San See Temple on Mohamed Sultan Rd. I found some old photos of Hong San See from 1993 on PICAS. The first one shows how the different the steps leading up to the temple used to look and the second is taken almost at the same angle as mine and really emphasises the development that has taken place in the area around the temple.

Hong San See, 1993

Hong San See, 1993

Hong San See, present-day

The name of the temple means ‘Temple on Phoenix Hill’ and the original temple was erected in 1829 in Tanjong Pagar by Hokkien people of the Lam Ann clan from Nan An county in Fujian province of China. In 1907, the land was acquired by the government so a new temple was constructed at Mohamed Sultan Rd between 1908 and 1913.

The temple is situated on high ground and used to have a view of the sea. According to fengshui, this is a prime spot for a temple.The chief director of the temple’s Board was Lim Loh, the father of World War II hero Lim Bo Seng.

Singapore Lam An Association

In 1915, Nan Ming School was started within the temple complex to educate children from Bukit Ho Swee and other nearby villages. The school had to be closed down in 1925 because of financial difficulties.

The temple is managed by the Singapore Lam Ann Association and has been renovated several times over the years. Hong San See underwent a full-scale restoration between 2006 and 2009 and consultants from the Beijing Palace Museum were engaged and about craftsmen who had expertise in restoring China’s national treasures were brought in to undertake the restoration work. In 2010, the temple was given the Award of Excellence for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation.

exterior; centre entrance is reserved for the gods

richly decorated beams

the 12 zodiac animals can be seen at the entrance

granite columns carved with dragons

The patron deity of the temple is Guang Ze Zun Wang. According to the guide, the deity was born in the Year of the Ox, which is why a figure of an ox can be found on the roof even though it is something rarely seen in Chinese temples. Other deities worshipped at the temple include the God of Wealth and Guan Yin.

inside

an ox on the roof

incense burner

the Eight Immortals

altar

bell

drum

It’s easy to see that Hong San See must have been an important location for some of the early migrants in Singapore. I am very impressed by how beautifully restored the temple is and again awed by how much there is to for me to learn about Singapore even though I’ve been here my entire life.

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