Ban Siew San Temple

Ban Siew San Temple was built by Wong Guan Teck in 1880. He was a priest, who hailed from Hainan. This temple is also known by the name of ‘Koon Yam Tong’ to the Cantonese. This temple was built 2 years after the construction of the main temple, Hainan Tinhou temple in Beach road.

Where is it located?
The temple is located in a prime location, between the hill and the sea. The main reason behind the selection of the place was this unique geography with sea in front and hill at the rear end. In fact during the 19th century, when the place was finally approved to be the temple site, it was one of the kinds. Had the temple been there in the period, it would have overlooked the pristine sea waves without the obstruction of any high rise buildings in its vicinity. However, in spite of several obstructions today, the devotees still flock to the temple and they have a high regard for the temple’s cultural, historical and spiritual feel.

The roof of the temple is marked by a blazing pearl and two dancing dragons. The latter depict strength and power of deities, who are enshrined inside the temple. The temple also has a hall, which was built in the year of 1892. The purpose of this hall was to assist the devotees in their meditation and other ritual duties of the temple. Looks wise, the temple does look like a Cantonese temple because of its straight roof ridge and some unadorned parts of the temple.

It’s even a belief that the temple was actually constructed by craftsmen of Teochews and Hainanese origin and hence, the design and the stature of the temple are somewhat similar to Hainanese way of architecture. Whereas the building components like the elevation and the secondary ridge beams are more of Teochews architectural influence.

At an immediate glance, the architecture of the temple may look plain and simple. However, a further look will reveal the temple’s intricate works. For instance, the inside space has stunning antique floor tiles, painted canvases and Qing furniture to boast of its old world charm.

The main deity in the temple is Kuanyin. The temple inside has altars of Buddha, Guan Yin, the Gods of war, the monkey god, and the literature and the goddess of birth. There are the altars of Sun god and Wei tuo idols inside the temple as well. Wei tuo was believed to be a military Bodhisattva.

In fact, some of the deities are unique and are not found in any other temple. The reason is the frequent visit of devotees, who primarily are Cantonese and Hainanese. To put some evidence to this, it was indeed found that there used to be a small group of Kampung around the hills in the early days with a mixed community of Cantonese, Hainanese and Hokkien, where the latter had a majority and hence a strong dialect.

Although, the temple is the only historical Hainanese temple in Singapore, it still is striving to get a conservation status from the Singapore government. In fact, there are now very few of Hainanese temples left in the entire nation of Malaysia, but still the government has not approved to attend to its conservation needs.

For many the temple is not of much value in terms of historical heritage site. To them, the architecture is too simple to be given the privilege of a historical site. However, more than the interiors or architecture, it’s the charm and the atmosphere that is of special importance to the deities, which they believe is nothing less than enlightenment. And it is, especially after one sees the stream of devotees lined up for their everyday rituals into the temple.

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