Monday, October 25, 2010

unesco 2010 heritage award temple

i used to think that hong san see was some mixed-up version of leong san see and that they were one and the same temple. today, armed with a straits times feature article, my walking buddy took me to visit one of the two temples in singapore that have won the unesco awards for cultural heritage conservation. i found out that although hong san see and leong san see were both started by hokkien groups, they are two distinct temples: one is at mohamed sultan road while the other is at race course road. hong san see received the award of excellence this year while thian hock keng, another temple started by hokkiens, was given honourable mention in 2001.

some people tend to give the name of the temple as hong san see temple. i think the word 'see' or 'sze' is chinese for temple. so, adding the word 'temple' may be superfluous. it is the same with some places with a malay name, like sungei buloh river, gunong tahan mountain, bukit timah hill and masjid sultan mosque. it is like saying 'jalan besar road' when 'jalan besar' will suffice.

hong san see had its beginning on tras street (second picture) in tanjong pagar. the original temple was built in 1829. according to a plaque at the present site, the year is 1836. it was the gathering place for immigrants from the hokkien province of nanan or lam ann. the temple at tras street had to make way for a road-widening project. it was relocated to its present site on mohamed sultan road.

the award winning temple in the river valley area was built between 1908 and 1912. it was built on a hillock that once overlooked the sea. today, this view is blocked by all the high-rise buildings around it. the temple has undergone renovations at least three times. the last renovation was started in 2006 and it was only completed this year.

one feature unique to this temple is the electric lift chair meant for handicapped visitors. it can be used to help the physically disabled move from the base to the hill top where the temple is sited. however, when we visited yesterday, the chair was all wrapped up. the caretaker of the temple explained that the chair was hardly used because it was very slow moving. it would take about half an hour to complete the short distance.

as with all the other chinese temples, like thian hock keng and shuang lin temple, that were elaborately and skilfully renovated, the artisans and craftsmen were brought in from china. i think we do not have the expertise to do that kind of restoration work. most, if not all, of these imported workers are experienced and old.

i had driven past this temple before my friend took me there, but that day i thought i was seeing it for the first time. on reviewing some old photographs, i realised that i had failed to recognise it because the yellow paint on the retaining wall had been removed.

hong san see was designated a national monument in 1978.


WK said...

Hi! YG,
Your blog readers might like to
know there is a Singapore stamps
of the Hong San See temple.

It was in a set of stamps issued
in 1991; the other places of
worship shown in the set were the
Sri Perumal Temple, the Abdul
Gaffoor Mosque and St Andrew's
tan wee kiat

yg said...

hi wee kiat, all these places of worship which are commemorated in stamps have been designated as national monuments. thanks for sharing this info.

chinatownboy said...

The second picture showing the temple by the side of the road, is that the one next to Hong San See? If so, it must be the Chwee Long Tau Tua Pek Kong temnple that is now part of the Tau Tian Keng (Dou Tian Gong) in Jurong West.

yg said...

hi chinatownboy, the second picture is taken from the national archives' website; it is supposed to be the original hong san see when it was at tras street.

jlow said...

Hi YG, I'm not sure if its appropirate to ask here but I was reading a blogpost awhile ago where the blogger was trying to identify the name and location of a temple from a very old photo. I was reading a book recently, in it there are many old photos of temples and I wanted to share with that blogger this book to help in his search. Initially I thought that blogger was you but I couldn't find the blogpost here. I wonder if you know what I'm talking about and if you do can you tell me who that blogger is.

Thank you.

Icemoon said...

jlow, you mean Chun See?

I think you read this -

yg said...

icemoon, thanks for providing jlow the link.

jlow said...

Thanks Icemoon, that's the blogpost i read.

Thanks YG, you have a great blog.