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A Visit to Waterloo Street Kuan Yin Temple July 3, 2006

Posted by kentneo in Memories.

Text by Victor Yue, 22 Oct 2006

Today I dropped by the Goddess of Mercy Temple at Waterloo St, just to
absorb the great energies of that square. (^^)

I was lucky to find a parking slot just as I turned into the late. Ah,
GuanYin popi (in Hokkien, answered my wish). (^^)

As I walked towards the temple, I have to pass the Krishna Temple.
There were probably more Chinese offering prayers than Indians, but
then, it was afternoon and it was outside and so, the Chinese were
using joss sticks to pray and putting into the Chinese joss urns. The
Krishna Temple has since become a part of the entire scenery of that
huge courtyard, where most Chinese worshippers would make it part of
their prayer rounds when they visit the Goddess of Mercy Temple.

In the morning, one could see many Chinese going into the temple to do “pujas”.

As I walked, I saw what could well be the last remaining typical
temple scenes of South East Asia, as if time has stood still. It was a
messy courtyard but vibrant. Volunteers were encouraing the
worshippers to contribute to the needy. Individual entreprenuers were
there offering printed 4-Ds and TOTO tickets to the worshippers coming
out of the temple. Ah, many of the locals could not resist the “offer
of luck” – who knows that TOTO slip could bring him S$7 million? And
so, he dug into his pocket to buy that slip. (^^)

One company was enterprising enough to offer(?) huge umbrellas for the
flower hawkers. The sale of flowers was brisk. Young ladies preferred
to just get one lotus bug. Some would prefer a bunch. Some would even
go to the extent of buying special joss sticks, when joss sticks were
offered free.

At the rate of hundreds of worshippers entering the temple each
minute, the temple volunteers worked hard to ensure order. Lit joss
sticks were taken off from the giant joss urns almost as soon as they
were planted. This was to give space for others to put as well as to
control the amount of smokes.

In the constant push of the worshippers as they moved into the main
hall .. many people would stand with their lotuses and joss sticks,
faced outwards towards the skies, closed their eyes and communicate
with Tian Gong. What transpired would be secret and confidential. By
the number of people coming to the temple, their prayers must have
been answered. In this mad rush, it was interesting to look at each
young face so focussed on her communications, oblivious to the people
passing her by. She was in a world of her own.

Proud young papa was carrying the baby, probably just a month old,
while mama held the joss sticks .. ah, the first maiden trip of the
baby to the temple. It must have been a thankyou visit from the proud
parents, many of whom would have come here to ask for their babies or
for a good birth. Along with them were also many expecting mothers.

As we entered into the main hall, the entire hall was filled with
people. It might well be like a place with wifi and each person
communicating through his or her own conduit (VPN?). Some were sitting
on the big red carpet, probably not knowing about this English
alphabet character “belief” that looked Chinese on first glance,
chanting from a chant-book they probably brought along. Some were just
kneeling and talking with Guan Yin with silent movements of their
lips. Ah, only those who could read lips would know what had

And while such “quiet” moments were there, some would be making all
the noise with the shaking of the “fortune sticks”. Yes, it is an age
old means of communication with the Gods, in this case, probably Guan
Yin. On her right is Hua Tuo (the Deity of Medicine) and on her left
is Damo (the Buddhist Monk said to introduce Zen Buddhism (?) to
China. The questions are again communicated through silent telepathic
means or through silent lip movement. It could well be in English,
Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Mandarin, and maybe German! There could
be requests made by proxies .. anxious grannies for their offsprings’
offsprings, or mothers for their children and loved ones. It could be
a proposed marriage to examinations to job applications to even if the
coming grandchild would be a boy or girl.

While this shaking was going on, affirmed by the throwing of the
divining blocks (one facing up and one facing down is considered
affirmative) – and some might throw three times to ensure that the
answer is right, real kiasu I suppose, others might just be going to
offer flowers, sweets and donations. And in return, some might bring
back the flowers – often plucked by the volunteers into packets – to
use with a bath (to cleanse the body) and sweets for the kids. It is
certainly one motivating factor for the kids to follow the parents to
this temple.

At the right hand side as one walks in, is the counter where one could
get the fortune sticks and where one could get the guide books in
interpreting the fortunes. Ah, when a fortune stick has dropped from
the shaking and affirmed to be the one, the worshipper would bring
along that stick, which has a number, to the counter to get a pink
slip. On that slip are Chinese words, often telling a story from the
history of China. This would often need someone more knowledgeable to
interpret. These days, the fortune slips come with English
translations, or rather summary, which might not give the details. The
one word response might in fact be too brief .. like GOOD, BAD or

Outside the temple, there were many knowledgeable looking old men
waiting to be consulted, mostly by the ladies. These days, with more
people conversant in English than in Chinese, I suppose this trade
will remain good. (^^) Ah, but these men would interpret in Hokkien or
Cantonese .. asking what the person was asking for, be it school,
work, relationship, and he would tell the generic story and then try
to transpose that to the question asked. (^^) Imagine a question such
as if one would have a baby and the answer talking about trying to
squeeze water from stones. (^^)

Some old men were busking, giving an interesting shows to the crowd
moving in all directions. Two were playing the erhu while one was
singing with the headset on his head, reminding me of the famous
HongKong singer. (^^) The amused people walked past.

Barely a few meters away, an old man with one stump on one arm sat and
certainly looked very pathetic. The rate of the worshippers walking up
to put money onto this hands was heartwarming, interestingly from
young ladies.

In front of the shop selling religious artifacts stood the big statue
of the Laughing Buddha. His arms and stomach were polished shining
with the thousands of hands that have gone through him. It is believed
that one would get good luck stroking him from his head to his arms
and tummy. There was a small coin slit that encourages the people to
put some money before or after stroking him.

Diagonally across from the temple was another tentage where free
Buddhist literature and CD-ROMS were offered to anyone interested.
“Business” was also brisk. (^^)

If one were to go into the upper floors of the HDB shops opposite to
the temple, one might witness more of the peripheral activities going
on. (^^)

In a single day, the ten thousand hand Guan Yin has touched many lives
.. and today being the first day of the 9th Lunar Month, as in most
first and fifteenth day of the lunar month, would bring more
worshippers. If they fall on the weekend, the crowd would swell. The
next big event will be the 19th of the 9th Lunar Month, another
important date dedicated to Guan Yin. CISCO guards might be needed for
crowd control. (^^)

What makes this temple so attractive and important to many people?
Only Guan Yin will know. (^^)



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