Three Temples of Arumugam Street

It’s always amazing what you can find in Singapore’s hidden corners. Kick your way through the dust of the industrial area just a block past the MacPherson MRT stop, and you suddenly find yourself at three Chinese temples:


I’ve seen a lot of temples in my time in Southeast Asia, but these are notable for feeling either half-finished or half-demolished (I can’t tell which). Each temple has at least some space under a proper roof, but each also has roofing made of corrugated tin, tent material, or both…


… and there’s construction equipment galore outside.


People were still worshipping at all three, but this sometimes required walking over boards, skirting around pipes, or ducking under tent coverings.


The first temple that I visited was the delightfully-named Lord Buddha Temple (Four Face Buddha).


At first glance, this temple appears to be typically Chinese — I was greeted first by statues representing the signs of the Chinese zodiac …


… by Chinese gods of the underworld…


… and by a very Chinese-looking Buddha sitting on a large unfolding lotus:


But go just a little further back, and the statuary all becomes Thai. I found day-of-the-week Buddhas …


… a small four-face Buddha in a typically shiny Thai shrine …


… and a much larger four-face Buddha in what looked to be the main worship hall:


As a side note, the only other four face Buddha I can find appears to be in Bangkok, at the Erawan Shrine. I’m not sure how or why he’s ended up in Singapore.

Other notable (and unexpected) figures in this temple included these monks … fullsizeoutput_5702

… with disturbingly piercing gazes …


… and this painting, which had no apparent religious significance whatsoever (but was pretty wonderful from a home-grown, historical Singapore standpoint):


Most notable, however, was the construction debris tossed all over, including a mess strewn right across the main temple room …


… and in the basin of what I started calling “the dragon of the architectural plans”:


Immediately next door is Charn Mao Hern Kew Huang Keng Temple. This one seemed to be in the best shape of the three, and it’s definitely the simplest of the bunch. The temple consists of three narrow, high-ceilinged rooms, one that contains guardian figures (I’m pretty sure that this is a Teochew temple dedicated the Nine Emperor Gods of Taoism)…


… one that features a series of paintings set amidst a lot of gold…


… and a third room filled with halfway up to the ceiling with rows and rows of wooden plaques.


I’m assuming these contain prayers (I always wish that I had either a translator or a guide — or both — when I visit Chinese temples, because the best Google translate is giving me on the middle plaque is “Swiss University”).


Across the street sits a bevy of construction equipment and Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple, a Taoist warren of rooms and hallways both large and small. Visitors are greeted by this outsized guardian …


… and by a golden figure who appears to be Yue Lao, a god of love and marriage:


Then there’s the ubiquitous tiger-in-a-cave (this one is decorated with what look to me like Christmas lights and also appears to have a bar of soap on its nose, though I’m sure that can’t be right):


The ceiling here is covered in paper lanterns, which I loved:


The main worship room is gold, gold, gold, with dragons …


… and incense and offerings galore:


There were lots of ways to give money to the temple (they’re in the midst of a construction campaign). You can buy offerings, which appear to fill every room of the temple …


… you can purchase joss paper to burn in the giant furnaces …


… or you can put money in a slot (as I did) to ring a giant, satisfying bell:


You can also make a donation, presumably by birth year, next to each of these little figures:


I’ve never seen anything like these in a temple before.fullsizeoutput_5770

As with all Taoist temples, tiny deities abound …


… in what sometimes appear to be rather unruly masses:


But the most unusual feature here was the wall of paintings depicting the various courts of hell:


These are clearly hand-done, and I’m a big fan of the multicolored, pointy-headed demons:




3 responses to “Three Temples of Arumugam Street

  1. Pingback: Singapore by MRT: The Blue Line, Expo to Fort Canning | Traveler Tina·

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