A temple stuck right in the middle of a public housing complex is not something you often see but the Poh Chung Tian Chor Sian Tong temple in Toa Payoh certainly stands out. Located at Lorong 6, I finally visited this temple after seeing it from my local bus for the last two years.
The plaque on the temple stairs says the temple was built in 2005. However, many of the items inside the temple including the furniture, statues and textiles seem to be very old.
I asked the temple caretaker if the temple had been purposely built to house an older one, or if several older temples had been amalgamated there as in the case of other temples in Toa Payoh. But he wasn’t familiar with the history of the temple and told me to look on the internet!
However, he did tell me that interest in the temple is dwindling and that it’s difficult to generate any income as the temple is not allowed to 'sell' anything. I noticed a donation box set up to collect funds to help the temple extend its lease, which is due for renewal in the near future.
I saw a cloth dragon on poles and a lion head used for Chinese New Year dances stored at the side of the temple. A sign for the Singapore Siau Tiong San Athletic Association was hung up at the front at the temple's office. I guess that such performances help to generate income for the temple as shops and businesses usually pay for the dance to be held at their premises.
When I asked the caretaker about festivals held there, he said that the temple only celebrates the Moon Festival in August, and Chinese New Year. The place was certainly deserted on a Sunday afternoon but we enjoyed seeing the large number of different gods and statues inside and around the temple.
I also saw an old narrow bookshelf with lots of small slips of fortune-telling papers. From my experience, I know that you usually shake a canister with long sticks and tip out a stick. According to the number on the end of the stick, you are allocated a paper that describes your luck in all aspects of your life. I asked if people still request this service, but he said that no-one was interested anymore.
We took our time looking at the small but impressive collection of statues, ceremonial swords and symbolic fighting devices displayed at the altar. I was surprised to see many small heads of gods on sticks and various Buddhist symbolic fighting devices. It took a long time but I managed to find a photo of a spiked instrument similar to the one I saw.
On a lighter note, my children were amused by carrot offerings laid out for the stone horses at the front of the temple. The kids were also tempted to crawl inside the grotto-like cave to the side, which was filled with unusual looking statues and the usual sweet offerings. A perfect cubby house!
This temple is certainly in an interesting corner of Toa Payoh, and I hope it somehow manages to stay. As I haven't been able to find any more information on this temple, I'd love to hear from anyone who can help!