Ban Siew San Kuan Imm Tong’s rich origins can be traced back as far as 1880, as illustrated on the wooden plaques within the Buddhist temple. In its humble beginnings, the temple ran its operations from two attap houses, which were subsequently refurbished in 1892. In 1905, the lower house was reconstructed into a block with brick walls and tiled roofs.
During the renovations, the temple adopted a Teochew-style architectural design with hints of European influences despite its founder, Wong Guan Teck, being a Hainanese priest. Its choice of design reflected the blending of cultures within the diverse Chinese community in Nanyang (as the Southeast Asian region was formerly called by Chinese immigrants).
Ban Siew San Kuan Imm Tong is one of the two temples (the other being Koon Seng Ting) constructed to meet the spiritual and social needs of the Chinese immigrants who settled in the area around Telok Blangah in the late 1800s. As the area was populated by various dialect groups, mainly comprising of Hokkien, Cantonese and Hainanese, it was apt that the temple’s architecture visually represented the cultural melting pot of the worshippers.
The temple also houses deities not commonly found in other temples, as a result of the many influences from the diverse dialect groups who used to reside in a small kampung near the temple.
This temple, along with its neighbouring temple, Koon Seng Ting, served as markers of community identity for the myriad of Chinese immigrants who took up residence in close proximity to the hill where the temples are located at.
The temple’s name is derived from the hill that the temple is situated on, referred to as Ban Siew San by the Chinese, which translates to Longevity Hill. The location of the temple was strategically built halfway up the hill. According to traditional geomancy, it is considered advantageous to have higher ground at the back of a building’s compound.
Regardless of whether it has been blessed by the hill’s auspicious name or if it is just a stroke of luck, the temple has managed to weather through more than 100 years at the same location.
Ban Siew San Kuan Imm Tong managed to stay afloat in its earlier days largely due to donations from its many devotees. Its founder also received the deed to a piece of land from the family who used to own the Telok Blangah area, including the hill that the temple sits on.
This is a conserved building(s) by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), please visit URA’s Conservation Portal for more details.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of May 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.