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Tong Xian Tng Temple (同善堂) is a spinoff of Qing Lian Jiao (青莲教), a secretive folk religious sect founded in China during the Qing Dynasty. In Singapore, it has a much different character; focusing instead on charitable works and medical consultation, and open to public prayer.
According to the inscription on the temple’s stone tablet, it was built in 1894. Its founder was a religious leader who hailed from Swatow, China — Ma Chun Qing (马纯清), also known as Master Beh Soon Cheng, or by his Taoist name, Dao Quan.
The construction of its two-storey building follows the traditional Teochew house form. At the front, the gateway is designed with cloud-like walls and an elaborately decorated Chinese roof, sheltering visitors from the elements. A plaque mounted on the ceiling of the front hall reads Wan Shan Tong Gui “万善同归”, which translates to “all good ends in the same path”.
Early Chinese settlers from the villages of South China tended to favour such buildings, as they adhered to the rules of the feudal hierarchical order set in place at the time, which dictated the scale and extent of embellishment. While Tong Xian Tng Temple followed closely to this tradition, it was also uniquely adapted to its sloping grounds.
For instance, the elevated site allowed for innovation in the design of the entrance. Its central stairway is flanked by sturdy walls and punctuated by green glazed ventilation grilles. As a result, the overarching aesthetic is novel, yet traditionally Chinese.
From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the temple underwent an extensive renovation, which resulted in the Ti Kong shrine being moved from the upper level to the right of the inner shrine hall.
Tong Xian Tng Temple, also known as the “Hall of Common Goodness”, is a zhaitang (斋堂) “vegetarian hall” in Mandarin, that became strongly associated with the Peranakan community from the late 19th century onwards and serves mainly the male Chinese Peranakan devotees of the Way of Former Heaven.
The temple’s association with the Peranakan community remains strong even today, with their presence more prevalent during Ti Kong Seh — Ti Kong ( in Hokkien) being the God of Heaven, whose birthday falls on the ninth day of Chinese New Year. On Ti Kong Seh, the temple’s regulars are offered vegetarian food to take home.
The temple is closely connected to two others established by the same founder in Singapore; namely Sian Teck Tng (善德堂) at Cuppage Road and Chek Sian Tng (积德堂) at Ang Mo Kio Street 44 (originally at Kramat Road).
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.