Part 1: Info

Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia is a temple which holds all of the three traditional Chinese religions (三教), Confucianism (儒教), Taoism (道教) and Buddhism (佛教). This is one characteristic which makes this temple unique, since few temples have all three religions together – most only have one. People who frequented the temple mostly came from Chaozhou, Guangdong, China in the past, but presently, people of all races and from all around Singapore – not just Balestier – go to the temple. There are always people found in the temple everyday, going there to ask for divinations and to pray to ancestors and the various gods of different religions. There are usually more people in the morning, and even more people on the first and fifteenth of every month of the Lunar Calendar. To the end of seventh month of the Lunar Calender, the temple would have their fahui (法会).

Whenever people cannot afford to collect the remains of their loved ones, they would call the temple and the workers from the temple would go to the people’s house. At their house, the dead body is burned and the ashes are places in the temple. This service is done absolutely free of charge. Sometimes, even hospitals call them to settle the dead bodies which no one claims.

This temple is also unique since it focuses more on doing charity, while most others focuses more on worshipping of the gods. Therefore, they require a lot of donations from people for them to do so many good deeds. For instance, people who are about to go for an operation may go to the temple to ask for a successful operation and then give some donations. People who visit the temple to see their doctor would also give some donations.

However, things were not so smooth in the past. They were not very well-off financially in the past, and thus their acts of charity were extremely limited. However, presently, they can do many good deeds as people do recognize their efforts, and thus leading to more donations. People are very willing to donate to the temple since they really can see the hard work the temple put in into contributing to the society. As the Chinese saying goes, “取之社会、用之社会” – Mr Zheng Gong Han (郑拱汉), the current chairman of the temple, feels that the temple should contribute back to the community since they receive so much from the community. As he said in his interview, “有收入才能做善事”, and thus we can see that donations are extremely important to the temple’s operation.

Undoubtedly, another important part of the operation of the temple are volunteers. Without volunteers, the donations would just be a sum of money. With the volunteers, the money can transform into many acts of kindness. Volunteers from all age groups mostly come in the weekends as they have to work during the weekdays. Moreover, the executive committee of the temple is also made up of volunteers, and the committee is in charge of the running of the temple and their charitable acts.

In addition, many schools involve their students to help out at the temple. Some students go to the old age home opened by Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia to clean up the place. Furthermore, Ngee Ann Polytechnic students do go to the temple to help for their Community Involvement Programme (CIP). A teacher in Ngee Ann Polytechnic is a volunteer at the temple, and thus would bring the students for CIP. They usually help out at one event, which is the giving out of red packets held in the eleventh month of the Lunar Calendar. On one of the days in the eleventh month, old people will queue up to get red packets and many volunteers are required to give out the red packets. This is a way of how the temple returns back to the community.

There are many other ways which the temple uses to contribute back to the community. Among others, there is a dialysis centre in Woodlands Blk 858, old age homes which attends to the elderly in Balestier as well as in Jalan Rajah, Western and Chinese medical centres which attend to patients for free, a dementia centre and a centre which gives out food to elderly.

Another temple in Balestier which also does charitable acts is Tai Pei Yuen Temple like Tai Pei Old Age Home. These two temples do have contact to work together in order to better contribute to the community.

Part 2: History

Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia was founded in 1950. This temple was formed by the merger of two temples, Thong Teck Sian Tong and Lian Sin Sia.

Thong Teck Sian Tong started as a temple known as 守愚堂. This temple started in the 1940s at 20 Kim Keat Road, and then shifted to 8 Jalan Rajah. During the Japanese Occupation, the temple protected people, acting as a refuge, and thus attracted many worshippers. After the Japanese surrendered, the temple decided to go into community and social work, and was therefore renamed Thong Teck Sian Tong (同德善堂).

Lian Sin Sia started in the 1940s just like Thong Teck Sian Tong, starting in a building on Boon Teck Road. During the Japanese Occupation, the place was similarly used as a temporary shelter as many people were made homeless. Moreover, Lian Sin Sia provided medical treatment as well as burial and funeral services. After the Japanese surrendered, there was an increase in worshippers, and since the temple was too small and hard to develop, they decided to merge with Thong Teck Sian Tong. Therefore, Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia was formed. They rented a place at Boon Teck Road. After the merger, they mainly worshipped Yun Jie Bodhisattva (运杰菩萨).

Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia was founded on 13 Jun 1950. Before the founding of the temple, planning started in 1949, as the temple committee from both temples involved in the merger saw that there has been an increase in worshippers and existing temple was small and run-down, was very restricted and could not accommodate the fast-growing crowds of worshippers. Therefore, after they merged, they prayed to Buddha for guidance and was thus given a place in Boon Teck Road to build their new temple. Then, they did not have enough funds, and thus started to raise funds, selling every share at S$30. The temple committee and worshippers were involved in fund raising and initial plan was successfully carried out. Construction and renovation followed. Finally, the project was completed in 1971, but the official opening only took place in 1976.

On 13 Jun 1950, the temple was founded, and the first elected executive committee was decided on 30 July of the same year. In 1952, the committee started to provide free burial services, and also funded four patients with a thousand dollars each. A thousand dollars at that time was no small sum, and this shows the generosity of the temple. On 16 April 1958, Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia started to provide medical services, meeting the needs of tens of thousands of people a year. In the same year, they set up a water kiosk on Boon Teck Road to provide water and tea for the public, especially trishaw riders. In 1968, the temple donated $500 to the Ministry of Defence. The next year, the temple donated $10 each to 1200 people who were in their care. Two years later, the temple was refurnished. Then, in 1974, the new temple was finished, but the opening ceremony was only held two years later. On 31 October 1978, the temple donated $6000, with an added $1000 from stakeholders, to aid the Jurong tanker explosion recovery efforts. On 29 October 1985, Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia’s executive committee laid out some rules for the usage of Gongdetang (功德堂) and Xiaodeting (孝德厅). On 2 February 1993, the executive committee for the Old Age Home run by the temple was announced. On 5 January 1996, Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia opened a Western Medical Centre as well as a Chinese Medical Centre. On 24 Dec 1996, the Old Age Home was officially opened with Mr Ch'ng Jit Koon as the Guest-of-Honour. In November 1997, Thock Teck Home for Senior Citizens started to get senior citizens of all races and nationalities to stay at their old age home and provide professional care for them. On 5 Apr 1998, there was an official opening ceremony for Yandetang (延德堂) and Sideting (思德厅).On 21 Dec 1999, they gave out red packets to the elderly for the first time. For those whom Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) labelled under very needy would get $100, while the rest of the people from VWOs get $30 and elderly gets $20.

Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia does a lot of charity work and supports many VWOs, like a Chinese Medical Clinic, a Western Medical Clinic, both providing free services, a dialysis centre in Woodlands as well as Moulmein Educare Centre.

On their 50th anniversary, the temple was refurnished. The temple was renovated again in 2003.

Part 3: Water Kiosk (施茶亭)

There used to be four water kiosks in Singapore, with two buckets holding tea and water respectively. In the past, the water kiosks were mostly used by the trishaw riders, as there were no more 拉车夫 in the 1960s anymore. Now, the water kiosks are mostly used by garang guni and delivery men.

Presently, there is only one water kiosk left in Singapore, which is found in Balestier. This water kiosk belongs to Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia, which makes this temple unique. The buckets are filled once everyday.