Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple
Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple, better known as Wang Hai Da Bo Gong Miao, is located at the foot of Mount Palmer at Palmer Road (off Shenton Way). It is one of the earliest Chinese temples and the oldest Hakka institution established in Singapore.
The present temple at Palmer Road was built in 1844, but according to anecdotal accounts, the history of the temple can be traced back to the pre-colonial period, when the early Hakkas who came to Singapore erected a shrine to the deity Tua Pek Kong. As the Hakka community grew, a temple was later built on the site. Although the temple’s date of foundation was not recorded, scholars believe that it was already in existence by the time Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, which would make it the oldest existing temple in Singapore.1
The temple was managed by the clansmen of the Hakka associations: Ying Fo Fui Kun and Fong Yun Thai Association. According to temple records, Yinghe Company and Fengyongda Company (now known as Ying Fo Fui Kun and Fong Yun Thai Association respectively) each contributed $50 towards major repair works for the temple in 1861. The two companies were the biggest donors at that time. Temple records also state that the temple was registered in 1861 but only obtained the title deed of the land in 1877 by temple trustee Song Huanniang.2 In 1970, as a result of damage to the temple during World War II and wear and tear over the years, the temple underwent major repairs again.3 In 1982, the land was acquired by the government and the temple has since been managed under the Temporary Occupation Licence.4
Facing the impending threat of being demolished, the management of the Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple initiated a campaign to preserve the temple. In January 2006, trustees of the temple sponsored $8,300 to a local archaeological team to conduct investigations within the compound and nearby vicinity of the temple.5 More than 1,000 artefacts were discovered by the team, including some 19th and early 20th century ceramics and glassware as well as some World War II artefacts left behind by the Japanese and British.6
The architectural characteristics of Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple closely resemble Teochew architecture from Southern China. The covered galleries on both sides of the prayer hall lead to the main hall, with an open courtyard enclosed within the hall and galleries. This arrangement is similar to the si he yuan courtyard model found in Teochew provinces. All these suggest that Teochew craftsmen were involved in the temple’s original construction, even though it was built by Hakka immigrants.7
The temple also houses several historical artefacts, including a piece of yun ban (a religious piece cut into the shape of clouds) dated 1844, a pair of 19th century couplets and unique juan cao ornaments on the rooftop made from cockle shells, believed to be the only representation of such roof ornaments in Singapore.8
Today, the temple continues to attract many devotees of Tua Pek Kong, especially on the birthdays of the deities Tua Pek Kong and Tai Shang Lao Jun on the 16th day of the second month and 1st day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar respectively.9
Temples that house the deity Tua Pek Kong are always known as Fook Tet Soo or Fuk Tak Chi. The Fook Tek Soo Khek Temple is also commonly known as Wang Hai Da Bo Gong Miao, meaning “sea-facing Tua Pek Kong Temple”, as it used to overlook the sea until land reclamation transformed the landscape.10
1. Chen Poh Seng 陈波生,ed., Bai nian gong de bei nan bang: Wang hai da bo gong miao ji shi 百年公德被南邦 : 望海大伯公庙纪事 [The living heritage: Stories of Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple] (Singapore: Char Yong (Dabu) Association, 2006), 10. (Call no. Chinese RSING 299.5145095957 LIV)
2. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 10.
3. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 14.
4. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 7.
5. M. Y. Mo, Nao qu gu miao jue bao: Wang hai da bo gong miao 闹曲谷妙觉宝：望海大伯宫妙 [Naoqu Valley Miaojuebao: Wanghai Uncle Palace Miao], Lianhe Zaobao, Zaobao Weekly, 26 February 2006 15. (Microfilm NL 26610]
6. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 88.
7. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 25.
8. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 42‒53.
9. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 10.
10. Chen, Bai nian gong de bei nan bang, 14.
The information in this article is valid as at September 2020 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.