An unexpected temple
Published/Last edited or updated: 2nd February, 2017
Surrounded by bankers’ skyscrapers, this Taoist temple dating back to 1850 is a well preserved relic in the middle of Singapore’s central business district down behind Boat Quay.
In the early 1800s mainland Chinese migrants, primarily from Guangdong province landed on what is now Singapore’s shores to make their fortune. It was, lets say, a less than luxurious journey, and upon making land, one of the first missions was to head to “The Temple of the Clam Sea” to give your thanks to the deity Mazu — the Goddess of the sea. Others would visit solely to make offerings of joss paper or “ghost money” to appease angry spirits.
The site was originally home to two temples, which were merged into one in the early 1900s. With your back to the entrance, the temple to the left is Tian Hou Gong (for Mazu) and to the right sits Shang Di Gong (for Xuan Tian Shang Di). To the casual visitor (us) there is little to differentiate the two. But they’re both home to beautiful sculpture and artwork and are very well regarded for their elaborate roof carvings. There’s been a number of renovations over time, the most recent was inaugurated in 2014.
You’re permitted to take photos within the temples and admission is free. The closest SMRT is Raffles Place, but Telok Ayer is also quite close and may make more sense if you are temple hopping as just to the south of Telok Ayer you’ll find Thian Hock Keng Temple — one of our personal favourites in the area.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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