Sought-out sights in the world have always included the architecture inspired by spirituality, such as great cathedrals of Europe and ancient temples in China.  In the case of the island city-state of Singapore, you’ll find the oldest and most prominent is the Thian Hock Keng or the Temple of Heavenly Bliss.   Built in 1839, around twenty years after Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore as a simple trading post on the Singapore River and about one hundred and seventy-one years from today, this Hokkien Temple was constructed to honor the Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu or Mat-Su.

The story behind Mazu is a fascinating one, in which a girl is transformed into a goddess.  There is history about this girl contained in immensely old edicts from the government, from court documents, and even shipping logs, as well as Taoist scriptures, that describes Mazu as a young girl and the goddess she became.  Even to this day, she has fifteen hundred operating temples and about a hundred million followers.  Folk tradition for Mazu describes how in times of trouble if you call upon her by name, Mazu, she will come to your aid; however, if you address her in a more formal manner, such as the Empress of Heaven, then your rescue will be postponed as this means she must delay in order to put on more formal attire.  The goddess is based on a woman named Lin Mo Niang to which people attribute miracles during her brief lifetime.  She knew Chinese medicine and came to be known as a healer; some of the miracles, though, were about stopping seastorms, and this established her as a protector of sailors and travelers.

The temple’s history is contained in granite tablets which reside on the wall of the Entrance Hall; there’s an inscribed plaque also inside which Emperor Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty from 1907 gave to the temple, a sign of how important people considered this site.  The plaque reads, Bo Jing Nan Ming, which means Gentle Waves over the South Seas.  The building is composed in from the traditional form of Southern Chinese architecture.   There were no nails used in its construction, and is considered a masterwork of architecture which uses tiles and wood, stones, statues of dragons and phoenixes, and intricate carvings and sculptures amidst the columns.

This temple is only one of many sights available to a traveler in Singapore.  All one need do is to arrange for a flight and to stay in one the hotels in Singapore, and begin exploring.  If you go to Singapore, be sure not to miss this building, which has been declared a national monument of Singapore for the last  thirty-seven years.