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  • Writer's pictureRick

Singapore See: "Thian Hock Keng" Mural at Thian Hock Keng Temple (天福宫壁画)

The "Thian Hock Keng" or "Hokkien Huay Kuan" wall mural is about 44 metres long on the rear wall of Thian Hock Keng Temple (天福宫) along Amoy Street. Commissioned by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (新加坡福建会馆) in April 2017, the mural is another handiwork of Yip Yew Chong, a local artist who painted many murals all over Singapore. I had "discovered" some of his artworks in Tiong Bahru, Everton Park, Kampong Glam and Bukit Timah.

When searching for Yip's heritage murals in Chinatown, I recalled that a larger piece could be found at Thian Hock Keng Temple. So, I went to look for it as the temple is not very far away.

Due to the cars parking along the temple's wall, it was not possible to take a good shot of the full mural. The cars also made taking photos of the mural section by section difficult. I did the best I could.

To understand the stories in the mural, start from the right. There is a painted note on the wall, which indicated that a self-guided tour of the mural can be downloaded by installing an app called LocoMole — instructions are in the note as well.

The story started with Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province of China, bidding goodbyes to their families and sailed to Nanyang to work as coolies or to find work.

They arrived in Singapore near Chinatown, a place where most Chinese immigrants lived and worked, including other races such as Malays, Indians and Europeans. This is where Thian Hock Keng Temple appears in the mural.

The next scene depicts a typical Chinatown shophouses along Amoy Street (厦门街) and living quarters of the immigrants.

The Hokkien Huay Kuan (Hokkien clan association) was founded to provide welfare and assistance to early immigrants regardless of their races and religions.

Known as "the Procession" to welcome the arrival of the statue of Mazu Goddess from Fujian in 1840. The grand procession was witnessed by all races.

In 1907, China Qing Dynasty's Emperor GuangXu presented a plaque with "波靖南溟" to Thian Hock Keng Temple. The words mean "gentle waves over the South Seas".

The mural also depicts Hokkien Huay Kuan and local communities' contributions to the community, such as the building of Tan Tock Seng Hospital in 1844 to provide medical services, schools to provide education and also mass weddings. Nanyang University, a Chinese university, was built in 1955. It later became the full-fledge Nanyang Technology University.

The foreground of the last scene depicts an impression of Singapore River filled with cargo-carrying bumboats berthing at Boat Quay before they were cleaned up in 1983. To the right are Samsui women laying bricks in the construction of residential buildings. In the backdrop are present-day modern skyscrapers in the Central Business District, Merlion, Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands.

This is an interesting mural that is both beautiful and informational. To understand more about Singapore's heritage, head down to the temple and check out the mural.



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