$20m revamp of century-old monastery is complete

ST VIDEO: MELODY ZACCHEUS

The century-old Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery in Kim Keat played host to about 70 monks from around Asia yesterday.

They flew in to witness the completion of the $20 million second phase of its multi-year restoration programme, which involved adding and reintroducing a series of grand halls and buildings.

Among them is a replica of the monastery's original 1900s Dharma Hall, which features a pair of gold dragons and a glossy red pearl on its roof.

The Sutra Hall, Meditation Hall, Virtue Hall, and a residence for current and retired abbots have also been added.

Present at the ceremony was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who officially opened the new buildings.

 The Meditation Hall is among the new halls added in the $20 million second phase of the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery's restoration programme. Left: PM Lee trying out the wooden structures in the Dharma Hall at the monastery in Kim Keat yeste
PM Lee trying out the wooden structures in the Dharma Hall at the monastery in Kim Keat yesterday. With him is the monastery's abbot, the Venerable Wai Yim. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

In his speech, Mr Lee described the monastery as one of Singapore's "valuable cultural assets", and noted that it had taken great effort to restore the Dharma Hall.

For instance, its restoration team had to rely on old photographs and hire traditional craftsmen specialising in timber and stone works to recreate the hall's original facade.

The Lian Shan Shuang Lin complex, home to about 30 halls and buildings, is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Singapore and reflects three distinct Hokkien architectural styles, from the counties of Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Zhangzhou.

The first leg of the monastery's masterplan involved restoration works for its Mahavira Hall and Hall of Celestial Kings which were gazetted collectively as a national monument in 1980.

 The Meditation Hall is among the new halls added in the $20 million second phase of the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery's restoration programme. Left: PM Lee trying out the wooden structures in the Dharma Hall at the monastery in Kim Keat yeste
The Meditation Hall is among the new halls added in the $20 million second phase of the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery's restoration programme. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

PM Lee said: "The monastery is the fruit of Chinese craftsmen from different counties in Fujian province coming together and putting aside their different individual traditions to create this work of art.

"It reflects our humble origins and aspirations as a nation - people originating from different roots, yet respecting and appreciating our differences, and working together towards a shared vision of the future."

The abbot, the Venerable Wai Yim, said that the monastery's architecture and art "showcase the diversified nature of Singapore" and attract local and overseas scholars as well as tourists. He hopes more Singaporeans will visit the monastery, which is a repository of Chinese culture and artefacts.

PM Lee said that the Buddhist community, with its strong emphasis on values like selflessness, compassion and tolerance, makes important contributions to Singapore's racial and religious harmony.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline '$20m revamp of century-old monastery is complete'. Print Edition | Subscribe