Goddess Of Mercy Temple

Goddess Of Mercy Temple (25)

Here on Waterloo Street, you will find one of the most popular Chinese Buddhist temples in the city. It is surrounded by other important religious buildings from other faiths, such as the Sri Krishnan Hindu temple, the church of St Peter and St Paul, the Maghain Aboth synagogue and the Malabar Jama-ath mosque.

This Chinese temple is dedicated to Kwan Im, the Goddess of Mercy.  The faithful pray to her to bring them luck in their everyday lives. The temple is also known by its Chinese name: Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho, or more commonly as just Kwan Im.

Of the hundreds of Chinese deities Kwan Im is perhaps the most beloved by Singaporeans. Legend has it that when she was about to enter Nirvana, she heard a cry of pain from Earth. Moved, her great compassion made her give up her place in paradise and focus on relieving the pain of the suffering. And, in fact, Kwan Im in Chinese means "see and hear everything."

That's why so many people come here today seeking advice. Whether it is to find the ideal date for your wedding day, whether or not it is appropriate to change jobs or when to move. To find an answer to any of these dilemmas, just come here and throw the Qian. The Qian, or lucky chopsticks, are bamboo sticks with very concrete inscriptions that are placed inside a metal can that is then shaked. When we drop them out, they tell us our future. Fortunately for those who can not read Chinese, since 1990 Qian is available in English too. If you want your fortune to be even more precise, check the lunar calendar, since the gods will be more receptive on the days of full and new moons. 

For a full year of good fortune, the devotees crowd the temple on the first and fifteenth day of Chinese New Year. It is especially busy on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, when the temple stays open all night.

Just so you know, the Chinese New Year begins with the first day of the new moon of the year and the celebrations continue until the new moon, 15 days later, with the celebration of Shang Yuan, or Day of lamps.  On this night there is a huge parade where everybody throws paper lanterns into the sky.

The temple of the Goddess of Mercy was built in 1884 before being remodelled shortly afterwards, in 1895. At first, the temple had 3 altars, the main one dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy Kwan Im, another for Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, and the third to Hua Tuo, the patron of Chinese medicine and healing.

During the Second World War the entire area was badly damaged, but this temple was a refuge for many of the wounded and sick as well as for civilians with no other place to go.

In 1982 the temple was almost completely rebuilt by an extensive renovation and expansion project, conducted by Tay & Yeo Architects. This project doubled the temple’s size.  This was also when it was decided  to bring the different deities together in the same altar. Behind Kwan Im is a figure of Buddha Gautama, or Buddha Sakyamuni, originally called Siddhartha Gautama, the first Buddha, born more than 2,500 years ago.

We recommend you move away fro the main area to the sidelines and carefully observe people’s comings and goings, their prayers and the way they use their fortune sticks.  Also notice the details on the sculptures and the roofs, the gold calligraphy, the incense burning in the urn and the offerings. It is quite an experience.

If you want any other advice on your fortune, you can talk to any of the fortune tellers outside the church, usually under umbrellas. They are great students of the Chinese horoscope and can predict your future. Or at least try. To ward off bad luck you can take a bath with some of the flowers sold by the many vendors here. 

To complete your visit, a final food recommendation. Go to the vegetarian restaurant right next door and try some of the delicious Chinese pastries. You'll be sure to love them.

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