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Book launch of ‘Stories of Fook Tet Soo Kek Temple’ July 20, 2006

Posted by kentneo in General.

Text by Timothy Pwee

Many people do not know of the existence of a Tua Pek Gong Temple at Palmer Road right at the end of Shenton Way where it meets the highway and the container port. Here, trapped in a time warp when the expansion of Shenton
Way slowed then changed direction is probably the oldest Tua Pek Gong Temple in Singapore (structure dates back to 1844). It seems largely forgotten now – today the most famous Tua Pek Gong Temple is the one in Loyang.

Well, after the land was acquired by the government, the temple became a land tenant, awaiting the day the government needed the land. Now, based on meetings with MP Chan Soo Sen, the Hakka community is trying to secure the temple’s future. The first step is the publication of this book: The Living Heritage: Stories of Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple. The book is a collection of articles (virtually all published in both English and Chinese) describing the temple and its surrounding area. Some interesting contributions are by Tan Yeow Wooi and Yeo Kang Shua on the temple’s architecture and conservation; Prof Zheng Zhi-Ming on Hakka ‘Grand Uncle’ (Tua Pek Kong) belief; Evelyn Lip; Johannes Widodo on the case for preserving the Fort Palmer area; and Lim Chen Sian’s report on his archaeological excavation of the area.

The launch itself was held in the Char Yong (Dabu) Association Building at Lorong 22 Geylang. Everything was in Mandarin so I can only give a ragged report of the launch. Chen Sian reported (in English) on his excavation findings (especially World War II debris) while someone else spoke about Habib Nohwho passed away in 1866. Habib Noh was and still is widely regarded as a miracle-working saint and his keramat is at Masjid Haji Muhammad Salleh opposite from the temple. There are many miracle stories about Habib Noh and his keramat both from colonial times and even today. The mosque is
named after Haji Muhammad Salleh, the man who in 1902 gave the land on which the mosque is built.

MP Chan Soo Sen spoke about how preservation of the temple depended on the community’s efforts. He suggested that a next step could be to reverse the acqusition of the land but that this had never been attempted before.

I found Mount Palmer very interesting. Today, it is more or less a mundane-looking hillock with little to suggest that a temple lies on the other side (photo below right). The Masjid has fared better: set on the top of another hillock, it is visible from the highway. For many years, I’ve sped past the mosque and wondered where exactly it was. Well, now I know.If any of you have come across Parsi Road (you can see the street sign in the photo of Mt Palmer… or hillock Palmer), have you ever wondered about the name? Well, Mt Palmer was also the site of a Parsi burial ground and Parsi Road points right at the hill.

Incidentally, I’m selling paperback copies of the book on behalf of the association (no, I’m not Hakka at all) at $25 each. Give me your contact details by SMSing 97918300 or to slowloris9 at email.com If you want to support the effort to save the temple, there may still be hardback copies available ($100 each).



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