Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore, ca. 1870-80 Antique photograph

A rare antique photograph of Telok Ayer Street and the Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore. Taken in the late 1860s by August Sachtler,  a German photographer who started photographing in Singapore in the early 1860s.

 A unique collector's item for those interested in early Singapore photography, very suitable for framing. Attractive old France writing on top and bottom: "Singapoore / Une Vue du Singapoore".

This street used to face the original sea-front and served as a docking bay for the boats and sampans of early immigrants. Grateful for a safe journey, many set up altars and houses of worship to give thanks to their gods, and one of these places of worship included the Thian Hock Keng Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore.

Immigrants from China build this prayer house dedicated to Ma Zu  , or Ma Cho Po (mother of heavenly sagas in Hokkien), protector of seafarers and navigators. It started out as a prayer house or "joss shrine" located along the shore of Telok Ayer Bay in 1822, and extensive reconstruction transformed it into an opulent temple by 1842.

No nails were used in the original tenon and mortise construction,  and all the materials were imported from China. The temple was designed and built according to Chinese temple architectural traditions by skilled Chinese craftsmen making it the most authentically Chinese temple in Singapore.

In 1907, Qing Dynasty Emperor Guan Xu presented to the temple a scroll that was hung over the main altar signboard. Today the scroll forms part of the National Museum of Singapore collection.

In 1865 as the area became busier and more congested, plans for reclamation were put forth and the work was carried out between 1878 and 1885 using earth from nearby Mount Wallich. The interesting result of this reclamation project was that the temple "moved" inland so it was no longer on the sea-front. 


Thian Hock Keng (Chinese: 天福宮; pinyin: Tiānfú Gōng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Thian-hok-kiong or the Tianfu Temple, literally "Palace of Heavenly Happiness"), is a temple built for the worship of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, located in Singapore. It is the oldest and most important temple of the Hokkien (Hoklo) people in the country. Another shrine at the back is Buddhist dedicated to Guanyin, the Mahayana Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy.

The temple originated as a small joss house first built around 1821–1822 at the waterfront serving the local Hokkien community, where seafarers and immigrants gave their thanks to the sea goddess Mazu for a safe sea passage on their arrival to Singapore. The temple is located on Telok Ayer Street and originally faced the sea; the Telok Ayer Street used to be situated along the coastline before land reclamation work began in the 1880s.

Starting in 1839, the temple was rebuilt with funds collected over the years and donations from the community, the largest of which was from Tan Tock Seng, a Hokkien businessman. The building materials of the temple and a statue of Mazu was brought over from China, and the statue enshrined in the main hall of the temple in 1840. Some of the building materials, such as stone for the columns, timber as well as tiles were recycled from ballasts in ships. The local Indian community of Chulia Street also helped build the temple, and a statue of a man who appears to be an Indian holding a beam up at the ceiling was placed in the right-wing as a reminder and gesture for their contribution. The temple was completed in 1842 at a cost of 30,000 Spanish dollars.

In 1840, the clan association Hokkien Huay Kuan serving the Hokkien community was formed within the temple ground of Thian Hock Keng.  In 1849, the Chung Wen Pagoda and Chong Boon Gate were added to the right of the main temple. The building was renovated in 1906, and some 'western-style features were added, such as a wrought-iron gate from Glasgow and dado tiling.[6] A scroll was presented to the temple by Guangxu Emperor to the temple in 1907. The Chong Hock Pavilion was built in 1913 and was once used by the Chong Hock Girls' School established in the temple.

The temple was gazetted as a National Monument in 1973. A major renovation of the temple was initiated in 1998 and completed in 2000 at a cost of US $2.2 million. The renovation received an honourable mention from the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2001. (ref. Wikipedia) 

Thian Hock Keng Temple in Singapore
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Image Dimensions
G- / Study images carefully
Product Price
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USD 2,200
SKU #P.1511