Devotees have gathered in front of the Kwan Im temple at Waterloo Street, just a stone’s throw away from the epicentre. Incense is burning on all sides, and devotees are chanting “Shitai Hosshi!” (meaning “Sutra Fireball”) with their cheeks pressed against one another. Many people have strategically positioned themselves around the incense burner, believing that the first person to plant his or her incense sticks at midnight will have a good year.
The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is open 24 hours on the night of Lunar New Year, which is also known as the Lantern Festival. Devotees flock to the main temple’s Kuan Yin chamber, where they pray for a propitious start to the new year.
The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is one of Singapore’s most renowned shrines. Although the current building was only completed in 1982, the temple has a long history dating back to 1884. The temple’s primary deity is Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy who is also regarded as a manifestation of the Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara.
The temple also houses Dharma (the first Buddhist Patriarch) and Hua Tuo (Chinese physician and healer), both of whom are revered. The temple is commonly known as the Si Ma Lu Kuan Yin Temple (meaning the Kuan Yin temple at the Fourth Road of Little Town).
The temple was rebuilt twice, once in 1895 and again in 1982 to raise its capacity. A trip to the temple was once a chaotic experience. Vendors were usually numerous at the entrance, who sold flowers and incense. Beggars frequently congregated outside the entrance. Another difference to emphasize was that, until the late 1990s, cars still drove on the street in front of the temple, making it difficult to go around.
In 1992, the Urban Redevelopment Authority unveiled plans to pedestrianize the roads that makeup Albert Mall today. The original Waterloo Street was reduced in length, with the section from Sri Krishnan Temple onwards becoming a pedestrian-only thoroughfare. Albert Mall was opened in 1998.
Many charitable and nonprofit organizations benefit from the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. It has supported a variety of health and educational organizations, such as the National Kidney Foundation and the University of Singapore, among others.
It’s also worth noting how Kuan Yin temple has influenced the commercial environment around it, with vegetarian restaurants, religious goods retailers, and even fortune-teller vendors in the area surrounding Albert Mall, Cheng Yan Court, and Fortune Centre.