Nestled in a housing estate in Toa Payoh is Singapore’s oldest Buddhist monastery, Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery. It is the only monastery in Singapore to be gazetted a national monument due to its historical value.
Cheng Huang Temple
Guarding the monastery is the Cheng Huang (城皇) Temple.
Being a Taoist temple, a variety of deities each serving a specific purpose can be found inside the Cheng Huang Temple. Devotees will pray to the specific deity based on that deities’ area of specialty.
At a corner of the temple hall stood this interesting looking pagoda. Upon closer look, we realised that this huge pagoda was actually made up of numerous tiny flame-shaped glass container. And the little black statue with both hands raised, that’s the Buddha of Laughter (笑佛). Devotees goes to it for wealth and good luck.
Inside each of the glass container is the name of a devotee who had donated large sum of money to the temple. These names are written in red paper for good luck.
Outside the temple, a huge urn made of bricks is where devotees burn their offerings (usually paper money) to their deceased loved ones or ancestors.
From here, we continued to the courtyard that was built according to the traditional Chinese Heyuan layout. The Feature Gate is the main gateway into the courtyard where the monastery is situated.
The well-manicured courtyard presented a very different atmosphere from that of Cheng Huang Temple. While the latter is a little messy, noisy and quite smoky; the courtyard is tranquil, peaceful and bring to its visitors sense of calmness.
Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery
The most beautiful and captivating part of the monastery lies on its architecture. The buildings are built with a unique blend of Fuzhou, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou & Chaozhou architectural style.
Guarding the main entrance of the monastery are eight Spiritual Pagodas (small stone Buddha on left of picture) with four on each side of the entrance.
Before entering the inner courtyard of the monastery, there is a second level of security by these deities.
The monastery is both a place of art and worship. As we walked along the corridors, we were blown away by the intricate carvings on its ceiling.
And these architectural art was extended to the roofs. There are many halls of prayers inside the monastery. If you look closely, you would realise that the roof of each of the halls are decorated differently. Some had dragons carvings while others may have snakes or fish etc. So, do look out for them.
As the halls are a place of worship, keeping our voices low is essential. Most importantly, shoes are not allowed into the halls. You can find these reminders just before entering each hall.
As with many other Buddhist temples or monastery, finding a statue of the Reclining Buddha is not unusual. Though this one is not as big as the one we saw in Bangkok, the peace that the statue brings is the same.
Back at the monastery’s courtyard, we wrapped up our trip with a climb up the icon of Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery, the Dragon Light Pagoda (龙光宝塔). At the top of the pagoda, visitors are treated to a bird’s eye view of the surrounding.
Pairing With Other Attractions
From the monastery, walk for 10 mins and you will find Singapore’s oldest playground, the Dragon Playground. This simple playground was a classic playground design of Singapore in the 60s.
Given that the monastery is way off the main tourist attractions in Singapore, make full use of your trip here by visiting these other off the beaten tracks attractions – Singapore’s only Burmese Buddhist Temple and Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. Both within 25 mins walk from the monastery.