Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Why Visit the Johor Chinese Old Temple in JB? 柔佛古廟

Johor-Old-Chinese-Temple-JB-柔佛古廟

In the heart of old Johor Bahru town, there is a small Chinese temple known to locals simply as the 柔佛古廟 or Johor Chinese Old Temple. It's not a grand building nor is its architecture extraordinary. But, its significance is far larger than its small physical presence - it is the spiritual heart of Johor Bahru's Chinese community.

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Built by Tan Hiok Nee, the Kapitan Cina or Chinese Headman (chieftain) in 1875, the temple is over 140 years old now. The old temple is now surrounded by towering skyscrapers on all sides.

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There is actually no official record of the year the Johor Chinese Old Temple was founded - but, the inscription (the right column reading from top down) "同治乙亥年 Yi Hai year of the Tong Zhi Emperor" on the Old Temple's bronze bell dated it to 1875.

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The Old Temple receives a steady stream of worshippers and visitors every day.

Johor Bahru's Old Temple is unique in that it is a common place of worship of all the Chinese clans in JB, namely Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese and Hainanese. The clans were feuding violently over control of land and influence in the 1800s.

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Kapitan Cina Tan Hiok Nee managed to end the fighting between the clans and brought about peace and harmony among them. To secure the peace, he built the Johor Chinese Old Temple as a symbol of unity and unifier of the clans.

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Instead of naming the temple after any single deity, in his wisdom, Kapitan Cina Tan Hiok Nee simply named it 柔佛古廟 or Johor Chinese Old Temple.

It was a bold idea and an example of Tan Hiok Nee's visionary leadership. Johor's once feuding Chinese clans have been worshipping peacefully together under one roof ever since.

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The Guardians to the main sanctuary.

The five deities of five major Chinese clans in Johor Bahru are seated in the main sanctuary of the Old Temple. Each of the five clans took up the responsibility for a deity in the Johor Chinese Old Temple.

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The Teochew clan is responsible for the main deity Yuan Tian Shang Di 主神元天上帝 (大老爷), as the Teochews are the largest Chinese community in Johor Bahru. Tan Hiok Nee himself is a Teochew from Chaosan in China. JB is sometimes referred to as "Little Swatow 小汕头" due to it's large Teochew population.

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To the left of Yuan Tian Shang Di 元天上帝 is Hua Guang Da Di 华光大帝 - the Cantonese clan is responsible for Hua Guang Da Di. The Hainanese clan is responsible for Zhao Da Yuan Shuai 赵大元帅 (玄坛爷), the deity on the right of Yuan Tian Shang Di.

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The Hokkien clan is responsible for Hong Xian Da Di 洪仙大帝.

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The Hakka clan is responsible for Gan Tian Da Di 感天大帝.

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I noticed that most devotees at the Johor Chinese Old Temple prayed to all five Deities in the main sanctuary. Tan Hiok Nee's radical vision of worshipping in a common space blurred the lines between the five clans in Johor. They progressed from deadly violent rivalry to tolerance, then acceptance, on to mutual respect and finally to unity.

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When you are at the Johor Chinese Old Temple, you will hear the sound of the drum at regular intervals. You see, a temple caretaker will strike the drum whenever a devotee or visitor makes a donation to the temple by dropping cash into the donation box. Much of the upkeep and operation of the Chinese Old Temple depended on such voluntary donations.

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For most of the year, the Chinese Old Temple is a serene, tranquil oasis - its white walls shielding devotees from the dust and noise of bustling JB city centre.

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Photo credit: With thanks to Hanks Lai

But, every year for 5 days from the 18th to 22nd day of first lunar month, the Chinese Old Temple is the centre of activities for the annual Chingay 柔佛古廟出游 or 古廟游神. During the Chingay, the five deities leave and return to the Chinese Old Temple for ceremonies and street processions on ceremonial chariots to bless the city. The ceremonies and processions are attended by close to a million people, locals and visitors.

Except for during the annual Chingay, the five Deities are seated at the Chinese Old Temple.

Read more about the Chingay 👈 click

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At the back of the main sanctuary is a mini gallery of old temple artefacts. We can see some of the old ornate ceremonial chariots used in past Chingays.

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The ceremonial chariot of Hong Xian Da Di 洪仙大帝.

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The well at the back of the main worship hall. There are two such wells at the Chinese Old Temple.

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The Johor Chinese Old Temple was restored and renovated in the mid-90s for RM1.5 million. The names of donors are engraved on a black granite plaque at the Temple.

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On some of the white walls outside, there are relief decorated with 蝠倒 "inverted bat" motif which symbolises 福到 which in turn means the "arrival of blessings".

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The Old Temple's main flag pole is supported at the base by a granite turtle.

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A sightseeing visit to the Johor Chinese Old Temple takes about 30 minutes. The culturally significant, historic site is well worth a visit, if you are sightseeing in JB.

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The Old Temple is located along Jalan Trus, just beside Puteri Pacific Hotel and Galleria shopping centre. It is about 5 minutes walk from City Square Mall and 10 minutes walk from the JB immigration checkpoint. (There is really no need to take a taxi here as you will only be caught in the traffic crawl of downtown JB.)

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The Chinese Old Temple welcomes worshippers and visitors from 7:30am to 5:30pm daily. Entrance is free of charge. Shoes need to be removed when entering the main sanctuary.



The Johor Chinese Old Temple official Facebook page has regular updates and news on the temple.

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👉 If you have any interesting facts or stories about Johor Chinese Old Temple, please share with us in the comments. Thank you.

Date: 9 August 2017

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2 comments:

  1. u wrote "xuan tian shang di" but chinese u wrote 元(yuan)天上帝

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for pointing out. I am revising this post with more information and pictures. Appreciate much.

      Delete

I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is unethical in the same way as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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