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.
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).
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.
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.
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.