Tuesday, May 12, 2009

siong lim temple in toa payoh

today, on our way to geylang for lunch, we made a detour for a short visit to the siong lim temple in toa payoh. although i have seen this old temple many times as i drive along the pan island expressway, this is my first visit to the temple. the claim made by some people that it is the oldest buddhist temple in singapore is disputable but i will go with the claim that it is one of the most beautiful buddhist temples in singapore.

siong lim temple is the common hokkien name of the lian shan shuang lin monastery. translated into english, it is the twin grove of the lotus mountain monastery(temple). it was built in 1902 and much of the money for building the temple came from a chinese bsinessman called mr low kim pong.

in the 1950s, the temple's land area was drastically reduced - from 40,000m2 to about half its size, 20,000m2, when part of the land was acquired by the government for public housing.

the temple was gazetted a national monument in 1980, symbolizing the social and cultural roots of the early chinese immigrants.

in spite of being designated a national monument, parts of the temple fell into disrepair as a result of neglect. certain sections of the temple had to be cordoned off as they were deemed unsafe.

major renovation works started in 1994 and works were completed in 2004. the cost of the restoration was estimated at $40 million. donations came mainly from buddhists and others in south-east asian region.

to return the temple to its former glory, carpenters, sculptors and artisans were brought in from different places in china to carry out the renovation works.

the temple now boasts a 7-storey gold-topped pagoda which is a replica of the 800 years old shanfeng temple pagoda in fujian, china.

in the same compound is a taoist temple. in fact, if you drive, you will have to pass the taoist temple before getting to the monastery. according to a friend, who is a staunch buddhist, at the moment, the maintenance of the monastery is actually funded by collection and donations received at the taoist temple.

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