Fuk Tak Chi Temple

Located on Telok Ayer Street, Fuk Tak Chi Temple is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore. Devoted to the deity Tua Pek Kong, it was built in the 1820s by the Hakka and Cantonese communities.1 It was converted into a museum in 1998.2

History
Between 1820 to 1824, Cantonese and Hakka immigrants installed a shrine of the deity Tua Peh Kong at the temple’s current site. The shrine was one of the first stops for immigrants from China. As soon as they arrived, they would visit the shrine to offer their thanksgiving for their safe passage to Singapore.3 The shrine was initially housed in a non-concrete structure, as it was common practice then to build an initial wooden structure or a shed over a shrine.4 A brick temple was finally built in 1825, followed by renovations in 1869.5 The temple’s 1869 renovation was financed by Hokkien community leader, Cheang Hong Lim.6


Besides its religious functions, the Fuk Tak Chi temple also served as the headquarters of the Hakka and Cantonese communities in Singapore. In those days, temples doubled as welfare associations and were closely associated with clan associations and the development of the community. It was also a place where disputes were settled.7

In 1994, the temple, then in a dilapidated condition, closed its doors to the public and was handed over to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.8 The temple management moved to a shrine in Geylang.9 Subsequently the temple was redeveloped into a museum and re-opened to the public on 19 November 1998. The museum, a conservation project under the National Heritage Board, is now known as the Fuk Tak Chi Museum. It is Singapore’s first street museum.10

Description
As a conservation project, the original features of the building have been retained.11 Though small, the 2,500 sq ft temple, laid in axial lines, has a well-proportioned single interior courtyard.12 Built on the shoreline, it initially faced the sea.13 After land reclamation, several buildings now separate the shoreline and the temple. The half-hip and half-gable roof decoration of the red and white temple makes for a rich hu lu presentation. The entrance gate and the space behind it are built in the style of a Chinese magistrate’s court, symbolising power and authority.14

The main deity of the temple in the past was Tua Pek Kong, also called Tua Peh Kong in Hokkien, Dai Bak Kong in Cantonese or Da Bo Gong in Mandarin.15 A popular deity widely worshipped by the Chinese of various dialect groups, Tua Peh Kong is usually depicted as a smiling old man with a white beard and is said to give protection against illness and danger.16

Converted into a museum in 1998, the building no longer has a deity on its altar. Instead it features about 200 artefacts contributed by the residents of Chinatown. It is now part of a heritage trail to help Singaporeans understand the lives of early immigrants in Singapore.17

In August 2015, the Fuk Tak Chi Museum reopened after a 10-month facelift. Singapore’s harsh tropical climate with its high humidity and frequent rain caused termite infestations in its timber beams. Decorative elements, such as the phoenix and dragon religious emblems, had chipped and faded over time. New waterproofing technologies were used in the temple’s restoration to preserve the building.18

The entrance to Amoy Hotel, a hotel inspired by the lives of early settlers in Singapore, is also located through the Fuk Tak Chi Museum.19

Variant names
Fuk Tak Shi temple, Fuk Tak Ch’i temple, Fu An Miao (Mandarin), Dai Bak Kong temple (Cantonese).20



Author

Thulaja Naidu



References
1. “Historic Fuk Tak Chi Temple to Close,” Straits Times, 6 July 1994, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Clarissa Oon, “No More Termites, Step In,” Straits Times, 19 November 1998, 3. (From NewspaperSG); G. Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places (Singapore: Archipelago Press in association with National Heritage Board, 2002), 72. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
3. “Thanksgiving Stop,” Straits Times, 19 November 1998, 3; “Historic Fuk Tak Chi Temple to Close,” (1994, July 6). Straits Times, 6 July 1994, 21; Irene Hoe, “Only 15 Visitors a Day but What a History, What a Friend,” Straits Times, 9 July 1994, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 72.
4. Evelyn Lip, Chinese Temple Architecture in Singapore (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1983), 64‒65. (Call no. RSING 726.1951095957 LIP)
5. Hoe, “Only 15 Visitors a Day but What a History.”
6. Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 72.
7. “Thanksgiving Stop”; “Historic Fuk Tak Chi Temple to Close”; Hoe, “Only 15 Visitors a Day but What a History.”
8. “Thanksgiving Stop”; “Historic Fuk Tak Chi Temple to Close”; Hoe, “Only 15 Visitors a Day but What a History.”
9. “Thanksgiving Stop.”
10. Oon, “No More Termites, Step In.”
11. Oon, “No More Termites, Step In”; G. Byrne Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour (Singapore: Times Editions, 2002), 28. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BYR)
12. Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour, 28; Oon, “No More Termites, Step In.”
13. Hoe, “Only 15 Visitors a Day”; Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour, 28.
14. Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour, 28; Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 72.
15. Hoe, “Only 15 Visitors a Day”; Oon, “No More Termites, Step In”; Lip, Chinese Temple Architecture in Singapore, 64; Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 72.
16. Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 72.
17. Oon, “No More Termites, Step In.”
18. Melody Zaccheus, “Fuk Tak Chi Reopens after Makeover,” Straits Times, 11 August 2015, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Rumi Hardasmalani, “Boutique Hotels Beating Out the Big Boys,” Today, 12 September 2016, 26; Jennani Durai, “Suite Change: The Oriental Beauty,’ Straits Times, 25 January 2014, 6–7. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Uma Devi, Singapore's 100 Historic Places, 72.



Further resource
Zhu Hong, “Temples are First Base for the Clans,” Straits Times, 3 September 1996, 12. (From NewspaperSG)



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to 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.

Subject
Public buildings
Historic buildings--Singapore
Religious buildings
Temples, Chinese--Singapore
Museums--Singapore