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Group seeks to preserve 187-year-old Taoist temple July 18, 2006

Posted by kentneo in General.
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Text by Leong Weng Kam
CLANSMEN from the Khek community here have been lobbying to have the 187-year-old temple their ancestors built preserved as a national monument.

Lying at the foot of the former Mount Palmer off Shenton Way, the Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple, better known as the Wang Hai Da Bo Gong Miao, has existed since Sir Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore in 1819, making it the oldest Taoist temple here.

The Government acquired the temple for redevelopment in 1982, but since then the temple’s trustees have been leasing it on a monthly basis from the Singapore Land Office.

Last week, to strengthen their case for preservation, the temple’s management – comprising leaders from two major Khek clan associations Ying Fo Fui Kun and Fong Yun Thai Association – published a book in Chinese and English titled The Living Heritage – Stories Of Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple, to illustrate its historical importance.

Late last year, they also commissioned a team of local archaeologists to carry out excavation works in the vicinity of the
temple, which is also close to the Keramat Habib Nor mosque, itself more than 100 years old.

Findings from the 17-day excavation are included in the book, which was launched last Saturday by the MP for Joo Chiat, Mr Chan Soo Sen.

Mr Chan has supported the clansmen in their efforts to preserve the temple, even writing a letter to the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB) on their behalf, said the book’s editor Chen Poh Seng, 63.

In June 2004, the board’s officers asked for more information on the temple’s history.

‘It was during the gathering of past historical records on the temple that we decided to compile all the materials into a book,’ said Mr Chen, who is now secretary of the temple’s management committee.

The management committee also recently set up a building and preservation sub-committee, chaired by Mr Ho Lam Kwong, 62, vice-president of the Char Yong (Dabu) Association, which will carry out restoration and preservation work once the PMB gives the green light.

‘The temple is possibly Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple and its preservation is important not only to the Khek community but also to Singapore’s heritage and history,’ said Mr Ho.

Another Khek clan leader, Khau Wah Chong, 66, added that historical artefacts found inside the temple, such as a bronze bell and several wooden plaques with inscriptions in Chinese, date back 100 years or more.

Meanwhile PMB chairman Alfred Wong, in his preface to the temple’s book,said the board is considering whether to list the temple as a monument alongside more than 50 other historical and religious sites in Singapore.

At the book launch last week, MP Chan said it would be better if the clansmen could reclaim ownership of the temple from the Singapore Land Office.

‘We will wait for the temple to become a national monument first before the next step to reclaim ownership of the property,’ said the temple’s secretary, Mr Chen.

Limited copies of the book are available at the Jingu bookshop at Bras Basah Complex and Changhe bookshop in North Bridge Road at $30 each.

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