Hidden women's abodes: Singapore's vegetarian nuns and aunts

Researcher studies little-known local history of vegetarian halls whose numbers are dwindling.

Ritual costumes donated by the defunct Vegetarian Hall of the Blessed Lotus to Dr Hue Guan Thye, who hopes to set up a museum in homage to vegetarian halls.
The prayer room at the back of the Guanyin Gong vegetarian hall in Cuff Road. The woman in the black and white portrait is the late Ms Wong Ying, the hall's founder. There are about 30 such halls in Singapore today and they have housed unmarried, widowed, destitute, abused and orphaned girls and women since the late 19th century. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

It looks like a typical temple dedicated to Guanyin, but behind the altar of the goddess are living quarters for women.

The Little India shophouse unit at 19 Cuff Road has been home to a low-profile group of "vegetarian aunts" and their adopted daughters since it was established in 1954 by a Hakka woman.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 14, 2019, with the headline 'Hidden women's abodes'. Subscribe