March 16, 2008

290407 Thian Hock Kheng temple - 01

aka. Tian Fu Gong 天福宫 along Telok Ayer Street...


A Hokkien (Fujian 福建) temple built in 1839 & dedicated to Ma Zu 妈祖, the Goddess of the Sea, it used to be a centre for the Hokkien community in Singapore, & where immigrants offered prayers of thanks for their safe journey to Nanyang. The cat's maternal ancestors were Hokkien from Anxi 安溪 county in China's Fujian province. Anxi Hokkien is slightly different from the Hokkien spoken by those who trace their roots to other parts of Fujian province like Amoy (Xiamen), e.g. 'ber' instead of 'beh' for 'not' & 'hor ber' instead of 'hor beh' for 'number'.

Directly opposite the temple entrance is the Hokkien Huay Kuan...

P4290320 organisation started by prominent members of the Hokkien community in Singapore. Hokkien Huay Kuan founded the primary school that the cat & its sister attended, & donated land for the building of Nantah (Nanyang University), which the cat's dad attended.

The version of the university's history in the Nantah link above is what the cat heard from its dad & his peers over the years, & when it accompanied them for the 4th Global Reunion of Nantah Alumni at the NTU campus in 1995, the 40th anniversary of the founding of Nantah. At the anniversary dinner, many of the more than 600+ tables worth of 6000+ Nantah alumni & family members in attendance refused to clap for the arrival of the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, the guest of honour. Some refused to stand at all, & the cat was amazed by the sheer number who registered their displeasure with the Singapore government's closure of their alma mater by banging chopsticks, spoons, bowls & glasses on the tables - the way they used to protest against lousy hostel canteen food during their student days - as the Prime Minister walked by.

On the left of the temple is Chong Wen Ge, the first local Chinese school established by Tan Kim Seng in 1849. He also founded Cui Ying Free School, located nearby along Amoy Street within the present-day Far East Square, in 1854. Cui Ying Free School now houses Spring Juchun Yuan restaurant. Kim Seng Road & nearby Jiak Kim Street (where Zouk is) is named after him & one of his grandsons respectively.

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