Tong Xian Tng, 1870 June 24, 2006Posted by kentneo in Architecture.
Most people would not have believed that there is actually a beautiful Teochew-styled Chinese temple around Orchard Road. Nestled amongst shophouses and backed by a condominium, Tong Sian Tng is one of the very few remaining private temples and abode for lay practitioners of of Buddhism. The entrance gateway is perhaps the most elegant in Singapore with walls shaped in a cloud-like form. Compared to Wak Hai Cheng Beo, the scale of this temple is much smaller but shares similarity in the artistry of the woodwork. The individual perimeter buildings remind me of the smaller shrine architecture found in the oldest Chinese temple in Johor opposite the Indian temple. It is no coincident for this temple to be built in traditional Teochew house form, the founder of this temple, or grand teacher Ma, was a Qing scholar from Teochew. If you ask for permission to visit the residential quarters right at the back of the compound, you should be able to see the portrait of Ma on the second level of the building. The rear building of Tong Xian Tng is probably the only double-storey residential building built in the traditional Teochew fashion still in use as residence. The right wing of Tan Yeok Nee’s house and River house at Clarke quay are other examples of double-storey Teochew architecture. In terms of form, the residential building has a striking resemblance to the rear hall in Shuang Lin Monastery which was built in the Hokkien tradition. According to the present temple guardian, we can tell that Tong Xian Tng is a ‘Kuan Yin’ temple from the layout of the temple – with Kuan Yin placed in the front hall. Personally, I was quite impressed by a plaque mounted on the ceiling of the front hall. On the plaque reads ‘Wan Shan Tong Gui’, literally translated as ‘all good ends in the same path’, a pleasant welcome greeting for all who goes to the temple.