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From The Straits Times Archives

Restoring Yueh Hai Ching, Singapore's oldest Teochew temple: A behind-the-scenes look

Published on Sep 3, 2014 5:09 PM

SINGAPORE - A $7.5 million, five-year makeover of Yueh Hai Ching, Singapore's oldest Teochew temple, has earned the team behind it a 2014 Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award.

The Phillip Street temple, which can trace its roots back to 1826, picked up an award of merit alongside four other historic sites in the region, such as India’s Shri Sakhargad Niwasini Devi Temple Complex. Unesco noted that the temple, which has the highest density of craft and ornamentation works of any temple in Singapore, had been “methodically and meticulously conserved”.

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One of the main highlights of the project, which was completed this year, was the restoration of more than 100 colourful ceramic figurines, which depict scenes from Chinese classics such as The Three Kingdoms, on the temple’s roof.

We look back at the restoration process through these stories and pictures from The Straits Times archives.

1. When it all started

After 30 days at sea, Chinese coolies disembarking at Singapore’s old harbour headed for one important landmark to thank their deities for the safe passage: the Yueh Hai Ching Temple. Built at its current location near Raffles Place in 1855, the temple has witnessed Singapore’s growth and nourished the souls of many generations of Singaporeans. Now, it needs its own nurturing.

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2. New lease of life for oldest Teochew temple

The temple’s gold gilding has been conserved, its timber structure restored and its once-dark prayer halls now infused with gentle lighting. More than two years and a $7.5 million makeover later, Singapore’s oldest Teochew temple is ready for a new beginning.

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3. Teochew temple restored to its 1890s splendour

For more than two years, a team of artisans from China stared at 200 faceless figurines. Their challenge - to restore the Yueh Hai Ching temple's eroded decorative clay and ceramic pieces to their original form.

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