Chan Chor Min Tong is a Buddhist organisation with institutions at two locations in Balestier: Jalan Kemaman and Bassein Road. The Jalan Kemaman temple, a single-storey building with a garden filled with fruit trees and herbs, was built in 1926 and named after its founder, a Cantonese philanthropist. It served as a home for migrant men with no family or means of support. The Bassein Road temple, a two-storey structure surrounded by cloister-like walls for privacy, was built in 1936 to house migrant women.
Chan Chor Min Tong is a zhaitang (“vegetarian hall” in Mandarin), a type of Buddhist home cum temple that was established in Southeast Asia, usually by migrants from Shunde district, Guangdong province, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A zhaitang’s residents were usually women, who had to be vegetarian, remain single and perform Buddhist rites in order to stay there. They were not nuns, however, and were permitted to earn a living outside as seamstresses, cooks or housekeepers. The main deity in a zhaitang is Guanyin the Goddess of Mercy.