Sunday, February 20, 2011

#1 Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple, 249 Balestier Road

So our very first stop on this heritage trail was the Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple. As we were making our way from the dark, forsaken recesses of Pulau NTU, the heavens decided that it was a good time to shower us with its blessings. Needless to say, none of us were thrilled with the prospect of walking in the rain, but as fate would have it, the sky cleared as we reached our destination.

Anyway, this single-storey temple was built in 1847 by the Hokkien labourers working on Balestier's sugar plantation. At that time, the area was rather swampy and infested with tigers and malaria mosquitoes. In fact, workers' deaths caused by tiger attacks had reached its peak in 1843, imagine getting eaten by tigers! To help deal with such dangerous working environments, the workers established the temple, dedicating it to the deity Tua Pek Kong (Grand Old Man), who they believed was the guardian of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, who was capable of bringing prosperity, curing diseases, calming the ocean and averting danger. Till today, devotees come to the temple to pray for peace and tranquillity. The temple also houses a variety of other deities, including a tiger-lord who is believed to help people seek redress from injustices.

Just to divert from the temple for a bit, an interesting thing we noticed was that some enterprising businessman had set up a stall next to the temple, selling of all things DURIANS! I mean, sure we could understand the selling of fruits to be used for offerings, but durians? What a peculiar place to sell the King of Fruits.

- Orson

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