Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

Thousands of devotees have gathered outside the Kwan Im temple at Waterloo Street, cheek by jowl and incense sticks in hand. Many have strategically placed themselves near the incense pot, owing to legend that the first person to plant his or her incense sticks at the stroke of midnight will have a prosperous year.

On the eve of Lunar New Year, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple opens all through the night. Devotees come in throngs to pray to Kuan Yin, the main temple deity, for an auspicious start to the year.

A scene at Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho on the eve of Lunar New Year.

A scene at Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on the eve of Lunar New Year 2015.

A scene at the Kwan Im temple at Waterloo Street in 1960. Image Source: National Archives of Singapore.

A scene at the Kwan Im temple at Waterloo Street in 1960. Image Source: National Archives of Singapore.

Devotees praying on the first day of Lunar New Year in 1971. Image Source: Singapore Press Holdings.

Devotees praying on the first day of Lunar New Year in 1971. Image Source: Singapore Press Holdings.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is one of the most popular temples in Singapore. Although the current building was only constructed in 1982, the temple was established from as early as 1884. The main deity of the temple is Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and also believed to be a manifestation of the Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara.

The temple also houses Dharma (the first Buddhist Patriach) and Hua Tuo (Chinese patron of medicine and healing). People commonly refer to the temple as the Si Ma Lu Kuan Yin temple (meaning the Kuan Yin temple at the Fourth Road of Little Town).

Devotees (and child) paying respects at the Kwan Im Temple in 1976. Image Source: Singapore Press Holdings.

Devotees (and child) paying respects at the Kwan Im Temple in 1976. Image Source: Singapore Press Holdings.

Devotees (and child) paying respects on Lunar New Year eve in 2015.

Devotees (and child) paying respects on Lunar New Year eve in 2015.

The temple was rebuilt twice to increase its capacity – once in 1895 and again in 1982. In early days, a visit to the temple was a haphazard experience. The entrance was usually swarmed with vendors, mostly flower and incense peddlers. Groups of beggars were also often seen at the entrance. An important difference to highlight was that until the 1990s, motor vehicles still plied the street in front of the temple, making it a challenging terrain to navigate through.

A scene outside the Kwan Im temple in 1962, when motor vehicles still plied this part of Waterloo Street. Image Source: National Archives of Singapore.

A scene outside the Kwan Im temple in 1962, when motor vehicles still plied this part of Waterloo Street. Image Source: National Archives of Singapore.

Devotees would have to navigate through the peddlers and beggars while keeping a watch for vehicles as they exit the temple. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Devotees would have to weave through the peddlers and beggars while keeping a watch for vehicles as they exit the temple. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Sri Krishnan Temple and the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho at Waterloo Street in 1990, just before the pedestrianisation works. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

The Sri Krishnan Temple and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho at Waterloo Street in 1990, just before the pedestrianisation works. Image Source: Ministry of Information and the Arts.

In 1992, the Urban Redevelopment Authority made plans to pedestrianise the streets that form Albert Mall today. The original Waterloo Street was halved in length, with the point from Sri Krishnan Temple onwards converted to a pedestrian-only street. Albert Mall was completed in 1998.

Today the pedestrianised Albert Mall is a flurry of activity with flower peddlers and buskers lining up the street.

Today Albert Mall is a flurry of activity with flower peddlers and buskers lining up the pedestrian-only street.

The Kwan Im temple opens all night on the eve of Lunar New Year to welcome thousands of devotees eager to make an auspicious start to the year.

The Kwan Im temple opens all night on the eve of Lunar New Year to welcome the thousands of devotees eager to make an auspicious start to the year.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is a benefactor to many charities and organisations. It actively contributes to health and educational organisations, such as the National Kidney Foundation, the National University of Singapore and many other schools.

It is also interesting to note how Kuan Yin temple has also shaped the commercial environment around it, with businesses of vegetarian eateries, shops selling religious paraphernalia and even fortune-teller vendors in its vicinity of Albert Mall, Cheng Yan Court and Fortune Centre.

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