Visit Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple to see the role that religion plays in the daily lives of Singapore’s Chinese Buddhists.
One of the most important temples in Singapore, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy Kwan Im and people come here to pray for good luck and having their fortune told. While any day is a busy day here, on the eve of Lunar New Year, the temple is open all night and thousands of devotees descend, incense sticks in hand, hoping for an auspicious start to the year.
There has been a temple here since 1884, though the current building is more recent, with it undergoing a substantial expansion in size in the 1980s to be able to accommodate larger numbers of worshippers. Despite heavy bombing of the areas by the Japanese in World War II, the temple was left largely unscathed and served as a refuge for wounded and homeless people. Devotees put this down to an intervention by Kwan Im.
Approaching via the pedestrianised section of Waterloo Road, it can be quite a hectic scene with vendors selling flowers and incense or offering to read your palm and reveal your fortune, though spare a thought for what the scene must have been like before this section of Waterloo Street was turned over to pedestrians only.
If you’d prefer not to have your fortune told street side, you can have your fortune told within the temple. Shake one of the canisters of divining sticks until one falls and its number corresponds to a printed fortune — just be sure no put aside and thoughts of a personal path before you do! You’ll hear the chat chatting of the divining sticks from well outside the temple.
Photography is not permitted at all within Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, but is allowed out front and with the flower and incense sellers it still holds significant photographic appeal. Admission is free.
Just down the road from here you’ll find the important Sri Krishnan Temple for Hindu devotees, which is also definitely worth a visit. As the crow flies the closest SMRT to here is Bugis, but Bras Basah is a straight walk down Waterloo Street and walking that way will take you past Singapore Art Museum.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 4th April, 2015.