Tua Pek Kong and Kuan Yin Temple, Ping Sien, Perak, Malaysia

high-definition creative commons photographs from this syncretic temple on the coast of Perak, Malaysia, with statues of the gods, bodhisattvas and arahants, together with some further information.

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Large Waterfront Statues

The Eighteen Arahants

Four Great Kings

Main Tua Pek Kong Temple

Various Statues in the Gardens

Zodiacal Statues

Dragon King and his Entourage

Ksitigarbha Bodhisttva and others

Generals and others

 

Background

Tua Pek Kong

In Malaysia the Malaysian Chinese constitute a large segment of the population, the majority of whom are adherents of Mahayana Buddhism. The Chinese traditional religion has a relatively significant following only in the states of Sarawak and Penang, and there is a great deal of syncretism between the different belief systems.

The Chinese folk religion was brought for the first time by Chinese emigrants in the 15th century, with small settlements that were established in Melaka by Hokkien traders, but it was not until the 19th century that there was a mass migration of the Chinese. They built shrines dedicated to their deities and cemeteries for those who died.

The Chinese migration during the tin and gold mining days, which were a result of high demand for these products, prompted the need of temples, for practices and religious rituals. Social organisations in the Chinese immigrant society were important, where surnames, dialect, locality and trade mattered. The Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka, respectively formed their secret societies, such as the Ghee Hin and Hai San, and they played grassroots government of the Chinese communities.

A prominent cult is that of Tua Pek Kong, and it has incorporated the cult of the Na Tuk Kong of local Malay origin. Other Malay and Thai gods have been incorporated into the pantheon. Tua Pek Kong (lit. "grand uncle") is one of the pantheon of Malaysian Chinese Gods. He is believed to have arrived in Penang 40 years before Francis Light in 1746. Tua Pek Kong was a man named Zhang Li from the Hakka clan.

His Sumatra-bound boat was struck by wind and accidentally landed on Penang island of Malaysia, which at that time had only 50 inhabitants. After his death, the local people began worshipping him and built the Tua Pek Kong temple there. Today Tua Pek Kong is worshipped by Malaysian Chinese throughout the country. Tua Pek Kong is often mistaken for Tu Di Kong, partially because of their physical similarities.

Text adapted from Wikipedia and Wikipedia (retrieved, November 17th 2014)

 

The Ping Sien Si Temple

Pasir Panjang Laut in Sitiawan, Perak is home to a small fishing village by the seaside. Most of the residents here are Malay. Only three Chinese families live here, but amazingly, Pasir Panjang has a very famous Chinese temple despite the small Chinese population. This famous temple, Ping Sien Si Temple was built more than a century ago close to the coast.

Ping Sien Si Temple originally worshiped Tua Pek Kong. Now, the three main sections of worship in this temple are the Tua Pek Kong Temple, Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy) Temple and Hu Ye (the Tiger Spirit).

The temple is home to Malaysia's biggest Tua Pek Kong stone statue which measures 48 feet tall. Ping Sien Si Temple also worships Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy), Ma Zu (the Queen of Heaven), and houses 98 statues of various deities from the smallest measuring seven feet tall to the above-mentioned 48 feet tall stone statue.

Map of Ping Tien Si

Among the 98 statues imported from China are Jiu Tian Xuan Nu (the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven), God of Wen Guan and Wu Guan (gods of academic and martial arts), Jin Tong (Golden Boy), Yu Nu (Jade Maiden), Shun Feng Er, Qian Li Yan, Hu Ye (the Tiger Spirit), the Eighteen Arhats, the 12 Chinese zodiac characters, the Eight Deities, Si Da Jin Gang (the Four Guardians of the Gates), Jiang Zi Ya, Xuan Zang and his four disciples, the 24 filial exemplars, etc.

lnterspersed among the great statues are beautiful fish ponds, tortoise ponds, a landscaped garden, the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit (monkey enclosure), Tua Pek Kong memorial, a man-made waterfall, mangrove forest and other attractions.

The Pasir Panjang River flows into the Straits of Melaka. The Tua Pek Kong Bridge is located just off the dock where the fishing boats come in. This bridge was fully funded by donations and was built so that fishermen no longer had to wait for the low tides to return home. On the left river bank stands Ping Sien Si Temple and a few houses. The residents of these houses have helped to look after the temple for many years.

According to the local residents, the Tua Pek Kong deity has been extremely accurate in many predictions. Through his medium, Tua Pek Kong has made numerous predictions that have always come true, thus spreading the temple's fame far and wide. Interestingly, this temple may be the only Tua Pek Kong Temple in Malaysia which receives vegetarian food offering from its devotees.

Ping Sien Si Temple started off more than a century ago as a tiny place of worship for the Tua Pek Kong deity beside the shore. Due to the numerous miraculous predictions through Tua Pek Kong's medium, many devotees came to worship and donated to the expansion of the temple. The temple then moved from its original location further inland to its current site, larger and more beautiful premises.

The 29th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar is the birthday of Tua Pek Kong. The Tua Pek Kong Temple within Ping Sien Si Temple celebrates the occasion every year by holding a dinner for no less than 2000 devotees.

However, one might be puzzled as to how the Tua Pek Kong deity came to be worshiped together with Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy). The origin is an amazing story. As the story goes, the Tua Pek Kong Temple traditionally invited high monks to chant sutras on leap years.

During one such occasion in the sixth month of the lunar calendar in 1993, a monk was meditating one night after the service when he chanced upon a Kuan Yin statue being washed ashore. It seemed to exude an aura urging the monk to pick it up. The temple attendant came to learn about the statue and built a small temple by the seaside to honour Kuan Yin.

One night, Tua Pek Kong presented a vision to the management of the temple of a bigger temple so that the devotees could pay their respects to Tua Pek Kong and Kuan Yin. He also warned that the Kuan Yin statue would be stolen soon. True enough, the statue was stolen a month later, but it was mysteriously returned two months later.

The recovered statue was honoured in the new temple. However, barely two weeks later, it was once again removed from the temple. Tua Pek Kong presented another vision that the statue would be returned and the statue was returned shortly by a female devotee. After that it finally seemed that Kuan Yin would remain in Ping to bless her believers.

Text adapted from a leaflet handed out at the Temple

Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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