Located along Telok Ayer Street, Thian Hock Keng Temple is one of the oldest and most important Hokkien temple in Singapore. Its name roughly translates to Temple of Heavenly Bliss and is dedicated to Ma Zu, the Taoist goddess of the sea and protector of all seamen. There is also a smaller temple at the back which is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of mercy. Construction work on the temple began in 1839 and was only completed in 1842. Details of the temple's history are recorded on granite tablets found on the walls inside the Entrance Hall.
In the past, the temple served other uses other than simply being a place of worship. It initially housed the Hokkien Clan Association before they moved out. It was also used as a school and a community centre. During the Sino-Japanese war in China, the temple served as a popular performance venue to raise funds for China Relief Fund.
The temple was built according to traditional southern Chinese architectural style. An interesting fact about the temple is that it was constructed without the use of nails. Another interesting fact to note is that most of the materials used to construct the temple were recycled materials. The stone columns, timber and tiles were formerly ballast from Chinese junks while pieces used on the rooftop were broken pieces of cutlery and pottery from ships. The most valuable gift that the temple has is a calligraphic panel given by the Emperor of China, Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty in 1907.
Events are organized on traditional Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn festival, which attracts both tourists and locals alike. Thian Hock Keng was made a national monument in 1973 and has undergone several restorations. Best time to visit would be on weekdays afternoons and it is likely to get crowded during weekends and especially during festivals. Also keep an eye out for the huge Chinese drum on the left side of the main hall as you enter the temple. You can check the temple's website for information on upcoming events.