Bukit Purmei Shun Thian Keng, 1905, demolished

bukitpurmai.jpg cards2.jpg

This was one of those rare beautiful kampong temples built in traditional Hokkien style. Dedicated to the Monkey God (from Journey to the West), this temple was demolished in the 1970s to make way for HDB development. An interesting account of the relocation process was related to me by the current caretaker of Ban Siew San temple.  Apparently, 8 ‘puays’ (kidney-shaped divination blocks ) were cast with the same results – all poiting to the Monkey deity’s wish to be relocated to Ban Siew San Temple. Why this insistence? Well, Ban Siew San houses several Buddhas and Bohdisattvas. In the legend of ‘Journey to the West’ (written in the Ming dysnasty), the Monkey sage (or Sun Wu Kong) was a loyal disciple of Tang Seng (the Tang Buddhist monk) and therefore would always return to the side of his ‘sifu’ (master) to serve and protect him. It is quite obvious why the ‘Tai Seng Yeh’ (Monkey God) chose to be relocated at Ban Siew San Temple.


6 responses to “Bukit Purmei Shun Thian Keng, 1905, demolished

  1. Jun Sheng:

    When I go around telling some of my friends about this history, not many of them are interested in listening to them. I wouldn’t blame them actually, because we live in such a world of technology and new age. All these heritage, customs and culture no longer seem as attractive as it is to my friends. But to me, documenting this down is important. On a personal level it is for remembering what my ancestors have done for me, how much this House God have helped us and for memory’s sake. And of course on a much more broader perspective, I wish to let more people know about Chinese heritage through my documentation and let more people know about my House God and the temple that it originated from.

    Since young, I always remember seeing 3 deities’ statue on my family altar- Guan Yin, Monkey God and Da Bo Gong. And of these 3, I will always hear my grandmother talk about the Monkey God (House God). Since I was born and for as far as I remember, the Monkey God we have at home is completely black due to age. The staue is made of clay and adopts the sitting posture with his right hand holding a whisk and his left hand holding a peach. This posture of Monkey God is known as 大圣佛祖. His statue is about 10 inch tall and is very unique and different from those you see outside. And from what I heard, this Monkey God statue was carved by a famous sculptor of that time, Huat Hai.

    My grandmother’s father, who is also my great-grandfather, Goh Harry, is a peranakan baba. From what I heard from my grandmother, my great-grandfather have been helping out very regularly at this Temple at Bukit Purmei. The temple is no longer around and due to the lack of interest at that time, my grandmother remembers very little about this temple too. It is only true hardwork of doing research and due to the documentation of history, then am I able to find out more about this temple called Shun Thian Keng. For more information on the temple, do visit Kent’s Blog for more information. He is doing a good job in documenting old temples.

    Bukit Purmei Shun Thian Keng Temple is the temple of Monkey God. They have almost daily religious sessions where the medium will trance Monkey God to help people. And my great-grandfather was a helper of the temple. From what I heard, when in trance, the medium of the Monkey God can produce small little golden coins from his mouth. And the Moneky God was so popular that at that time, many government officials were also worshippers of the temple.

    Due to my great-grandfather’s involvement in the temple, he got a famous sculptor to carve the statue of a Monkey God. Personally, when I saw the old statue, I thought it was an adpt portrait of 大圣佛祖 because the sculptor carved the Monkey God in such a way that he looks like a monk who gained enlightenment from having been to the West to collect the buddhist scriptures. My great-grandfather also made special arrangements for the statue to be kai-guang at Shun Thian Keng. And when the statue of my House God was activated, the medium of the temple even gave my House God a command flag (Ling-Qi), mirror (Bao Jing), writing brush and a golden coin from his mouth. After my House God was activated, he was also left in the temple for a few years to aide in temple’s almost daily religious sessions.

    It was only a few years later when my grandmother got herself a new home that my great-grandfather suggested that she bring the statue of my House God home with her to pray at the family altar. And that is when the Monkey God came into my household and hence the term I use to call him, House God.

  2. Hello! I’m actually doing a research on Bt Purmei’s urban history. It’ll be nice if I could obtain some information of your experiences in this area. Also, I would like to know where does this temple exist in the current estate? I am only aware that the Tua Pek Kong temple known as Tong Yu Beo exists today, just beside St Teresa’s Catholic Church.

    I’d deeply appreciate your help. Thanks! 🙂

    Cheers! 🙂

  3. Hi juilian, you can contact
    “Tang Jun Sheng” yuhai77@hotmail.com
    who wrote on the first comment on top is related to the temple. The person who took these pictures may know something about the place as well, try also ronni pinsler axaxax@streamyx.com
    Good luck!

  4. Hi Jun Sheng,

    Thx for sharing, I think that’s a interesting story especially about the gold coins. Btw, another interesting thing about monkey god temples in the old days involved the glass bottle (you can see in some old temples in Singapore). Apparently, when the monkey diety is about to arrive, the water in the glass decanter would bubble up and goes with a ‘pop’. Fascinaing huh? Anyway, if you want to see big scale celebration of Monkey God’s birthday, there is an annual procession in Tiong Bahru’s Monkey God temple (is in an old shophouse not far from the New Tiong Bahru food market. The people there may know about the Shun Thian Keng temple.


  5. It’s a great pity that Shun Thian Keng Temple has been demolished. It was a great history. Up to date, I still cannot find a proper Monkey God’s Temple with a diety.

  6. hi….gd day… pls.. i would like to know which temple that house ,,, monkey god …. thks with regards…. hope anyone to tell me when is the location in singapore….des

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