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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
Ben van Wijnen

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

The Cheng Hoon Teng temple ("Temple of Green Cloud") is a Taoist temple, located at No. 25 Jalan Tokong. It is the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia. The temple, with its curved roof ridge, cut-and-paste chien nien decoration, and gable design, reflects the architectural style of South China, of craftsmen from Fujian and Guangdong. It has recently been restored, and in the process garnered a prestigious Unesco award for outstanding architectural restoration.

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin). This temple was constructed by skilled workers from China - master craftsmen, artisans and carpenters, who replicated the designs of the Southern Chinese temple. The building conforms strictly to the principles of Feng Shui, incorporating the fundamental belief that every aspect of life is closely related to attaining perfect harmony with nature.

Cheng Hoon Teng was founded in the 1600s by the Chinese Kapitan Tay Kie Ki alias Tay Hong Yong. During the Portuguese and Dutch eras, Kapitans were appointed chiefs or headmen of the various ethnic communities.

In its early years, besides serving the community's religious needs, the temple also functioned as the official administrative centre and a court of justice for the Kapitans.

Besides Kapitan Tay, other prominent Kapitans included Li Wei King, Chan Lak Kua and Chua Su Cheong. Kapitan Chua was responsible for rebuilding the temple in 1801 while the Kapitans and Teng Choos after him contributed towards the aesthetic and structural additions of the building.

In 1824, the British abolished the Kapitan system and the leader of the Temple, now known as "Teng Choo", assumed some of the Kapitan's responsibilities.

Subsequently, a Board of Trustees was formed to look after the temple. The pioneers included included Tun Sir Tan Cheng Lock, who also initiated the Temple’s unique incorporation under an act of Parliament {Cheng Hoon Teng Temple Incorporation Ordinance 1949}. To the locals, the temple is also known as Kebun Datok (Gods' Garden) and Kwan Yin Teng.

In de tempelCheng Hoon Teng

Within the grounds of the Cheng Hoon Teng are stelae, stone tables commemorating special events. A lot of travel books as well as Internet sites mention that there is a stone inscription here that was brought by Admiral Cheng Ho. Probably what Cheng Ho brought was similar, but the stelae in Cheng Hoon Teng Temple are definitely not the stone inscription brought by Cheng Ho. Due to similarity when transcribed into English - the Cheng in "Cheng Hoon Teng" and "Cheng Ho" sounds the same in English, but are different words in Chinese.

The oldest relic in the temple is the stela dating to 1685. It is in fact a thank you note to Kapitan China Lee Wei King, commemorating his donating of a piece of land to the Chinese community for the purpose of a Chinese burial ground. This burial ground of course refers to the one at Bukit China, which has no connection with Cheng Ho whatsoever.

The central altar is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy. To her left (in the worshippers' direction) is Ma Choo Ma Choe Poh, patron diety of fishermen, sailors and sea travellers. Next to her is the goddess of birth. On the far end is Kuan Kong. The diety with the gold face is Pau Sen Ta Tek, the god of welding.

The walls of the temples are all painted with limewash. In the olden days, lime was used instead of cement. Everything was derived from natural sources. The lime comes from the oyster shells and soot from charcoal




Wierook branden

The clock hanging inside the temple, coming from the Dutch town of Tiel. How did this clock in the Cheng Hoon Teng tempel?

The city of  Tiel
The clock of de Dutch town "de Stad Tiel".

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