Photo essay: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Photo essay

What we say: 4.5 stars

The multi-tiered Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of Singapore's most important religious sites and is a must-see on any walk around Chinatown. But there's more to it than the impressive exterior; head inside to experience the chanting monks, museum of Buddhist art and peaceful rooftop garden.

The Tooth Relic Temple is worth exploring from top to bottom.

The Tooth Relic Temple is worth exploring from top to bottom.

Opened in 2007, the Tang dynasty-style Tooth Relic Temple was built to enshrine a single tooth believed to be from the Buddha himself. Photography is permitted everywhere in the temple except for the inner sanctum where the tooth is kept.

Buddha comes in every shape and size.

Buddha comes in every shape and size.

The ground level is the main prayer hall and contains thousands of shrines called gau. They come in every size from necklace-sized amulets to a 15-foot Buddha statue.

Tourists and devotees mix at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Tourists and devotees mingle at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple may be one of Chinatown's biggest tourist attractions, but it is also an active site of worship. Devotees kneel before the image of Buddha and whisper their prayers, and many burn incense or make offerings of flowers and candles.

The monks must be on their lunch break.

Monk lunch break.

Activities at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple follow a schedule that is posted on the temple website. Try to time your visit with one of the ceremonies, when the prayer hall fills with monks and devotees chanting sutras from Buddhist prayer books.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Buddhism but were afraid to ask.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Buddhism but were afraid to ask.

For anyone interested in learning more about Buddhism, the second level of the temple has been turned into a Buddhist library and gift shop. There are hundreds of books to browse through or you can buy your own Buddhist robes or amulets.

This Buddha would be more at home in Thailand.

This Buddha would perhaps be more at home in Bangkok.

The third level of the temple is a Buddhist Cultural Museum with Buddhist art from across Asia, including Thailand, China and India. Admission is free.

Take some time to smell the flowers and spin the prayer wheel.

Take some time to smell the flowers and spin the prayer wheel.

Be sure to make your way to the temple rooftop which has been turned into a peaceful flower garden. It's the perfect place for some meditation or simply to stop and smell the orchids. The pagoda in the middle of the garden shelters a Buddhist prayer wheel.

Last updated: 15th November, 2014

About the author:
Tanya Procyshyn is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer. With a passion for unusual destinations, she has camped alongside Komodo dragons and shook hands with soldiers in North Korea. She blogs at www.idreamofdurian.com.
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