Religious fire pit in Toa Payoh used for barbecues

Some people have been seen using this fire pit at Toa Payoh Lorong 7, meant for residents to burn religious offerings, as a makeshift barbecue pit. An area nearby has barbecue pits, but it is undergoing upgrading works. -- ST PHOTO: PEARL LEE
Some people have been seen using this fire pit at Toa Payoh Lorong 7, meant for residents to burn religious offerings, as a makeshift barbecue pit. An area nearby has barbecue pits, but it is undergoing upgrading works. -- ST PHOTO: PEARL LEE

Some Toa Payoh residents unsettled by inappropriate use of incense burner

A fire pit in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 meant for Taoists to burn religious offerings such as joss paper has become a makeshift barbecue pit, causing a stir among the area's residents.

Housewife Linda Low, who moved to Toa Payoh a year ago, said she has seen it happening twice. "They don't seem local. I think they could be foreign workers. Two of them will come and cook first, and then a few more will join in later to eat," the 49-year-old said.

She is not the only resident living in Block 1 who has recently spotted people barbecuing at the octagonal-shaped structure in front of the block.

Ms Low did not find it annoying, saying "they cleaned up the area before leaving".

But fellow resident Chang Chew Sia, 35, felt that such behaviour could be disrespectful to local culture and religion.

"Although I'm not religious, I don't think it is appropriate for them to barbecue there," the mother of two told The Straits Times yesterday. "But I don't think they know that what they are doing is not right."

There are barbecue pits in the open space behind Block 1, but the area is being upgraded. The works started early last year.

Another resident, a driver who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, said he saw a group of people barbecuing chicken wings on the incense burner last Saturday.

"I can smell the barbecued meat even in my house, and it gets on my furniture and my clothes. I can't do anything about it too," he said.

Mr Tan, who is in his 60s, said he did not inform the people that they should not be barbecuing at the religious fire pit for fear of offending them.

"Maybe the authorities can just put up a sign to inform people what this (pit) is for," he said.

A similar fire pit in Jurong has a sign telling people that it is meant for religious rituals. But while such pits are a common sight in Singapore, not all of them come with notices telling the public of their purpose.

Master Wei Yi, an administrator at the Singapore Taoist Federation, said the fire pit in Toa Payoh is shaped like a ba gua - an octagonal-shaped symbol often associated with Chinese religions - so most people do realise that it is used for prayers. "But foreigners may not know that, and we can't blame them for not knowing."

Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao on Sunday published a photograph sent by a reader that showed a man barbecuing at the Toa Payoh fire pit.

Master Wei believes that residents who have seen people using the structure for barbecues should inform them that it is not right to do so. He said: "Instead of taking photos, Singaporeans can do our part by telling them and sharing the information. Or else how will they know?"

leepearl@sph.com.sg