When the first Chinese immigrants arrived in Singapore after a turbulent voyage across the infamous South China Sea, the grateful new settlers erected the Thian Hock Keng Temple along the shore in gratitude to the Goddess of the Sea, Mazu. Over the years, the temple has been one of the most important temples for the Hokkien community.
In keeping with the strict Chinese architectural traditions the local Chinese community, including wealthy merchants like Tan Tock Seng, not only contributed generously in building the temple but ensured premium wood, granite and skilled craftsmen from China were used.
What's more fascinating about this architectural work consisting of meticulously designed dragons, phoenixes, carvings, sculptures and columns is that all of those were all assembled without the use of nails.
Another noteworthy feature is a statue of an Indian lifting the top beam of the temple located at the right wing of the temple. The craftsmen did this on purpose as a way of thanking them for the help they received from their Indian neighbours from the nearby Chulia Village.
During the 1998 restoration works, the builders stumbled across a carefully stowed away scroll on one of the high beams. The scroll was allegedly written by the Qing Dynasty emperor Guang Xu himself who pronounced his blessings on the Chinese community.
This restoration project won four architectural awards, including the most prestigious award from Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage 2001 Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation Building.
Although being a predominantly Taoist temple, the statue of Confucius can also be seen at the takes up one wing of the temple. This is a common sight specific to Chinese temples in Singapore where Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist influences are often present regardless of the specific dominant religion the Chinese temple is promoting.
Due to land reclamation, Thian Hock Keng Temple could no longer be sited at the coastal front of Singapore, but it remains on the site of its first "joss house". While patrons can still be seen visiting the temple on a regular basis, the Thian Hock Keng Temple is usually bustling during certain Chinese festivals and is commonly frequented by tourists and the likes.