Thian Hock Keng in Singapore

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Thian Hock Keng Temple (; Temple of Heavenly Happiness; also: Tianfu Gong Temple) is the oldest and most important Fukien, or Hoklo (Hokkien) temple in Singapore. The main temple is dedicated to Mazu, the Taoist goddess of the sea and protector of all seamen, while a second temple at the back is a Buddhist one dedicated to Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of mercy.


After the British established a trading port in Singapore in 1819, early Chinese immigrants started to arrive, crossing the hazardous South China Sea. A “joss house” was built from 1821 to 1822 for them to pray and thank the Goddess for their safe passage.

Thian Hock Keng Temple was later built on the site from 1839 to 1842. The renovation cost of $30,000 was covered by donations from devotees, also one of the philanthropist Tan Tock Seng. It served as a temple, school and community centre. Grateful immigrants, some of whom became successful businessmen, contributed to the construction. A year after construction began, a statue of Mazu arrived from China and was installed with great ceremony in the temple's newly completed main prayer hall.

No expense was spared to obtain the finest materials and craftsmen from China. Many materials were recycled, however -- the timber, stone columns and tiles were formerly ballast on Chinese junks, and mosaic pieces used on the temple roof to create bird feathers, dragon scales and flower petals were broken pieces of pottery and cutlery from ships. In 1907, the temple received its most precious gift -- a calligraphic panel from the Emperor of China himself, Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty.

Thian Hock Keng Temple was gazetted as a national monument on 6 July 1973.


Constructed in the temple architectural style of southern China, Thian Hock Keng has a grand entrance with a high step in front. The side entrance gates feature brightly coloured tiles portraying peacocks, roses and the universal Buddhist swastika in green and brown. This symbol represents good luck, eternity and immortality.

Guarding the doors are tigers, lions and Door Gods, traditional sentinels of any Taoist temple. Beyond this elaborate entrance are two courtyards. Straddling the courtyards is the temple proper, comprising the shrine of Ma Cho Po. On either side of the temple are pagodas -- the one on the left is a shrine of Confucius while the one on the right houses ancestral tablets of immigrants who founded the .

  • National Heritage Board (2002), Singapore's 100 Historic Places, Archipelago Press,

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