Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society wins bid for Fernvale Link site

Group's planned temple will have no columbarium, but a hall for ancestral tablets

Flats at Fernvale Link, at the junction of Sengkang West Way. PHOTO: ST FILE

There will be no columbarium in Fernvale Link.

The Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, which was awarded the 2,000 sq m, 30-year leasehold site by the Housing Board on Tuesday, said yesterday that the temple it will build on the site will have a "hall of filial piety" for ancestral tablets.

These are usually inscribed with the names of the dead.

The non-profit voluntary welfare organisation beat three other bidders with a $6 million offer.

Its success comes four months after a new tender was called for the site following controversy about a columbarium planned by funeral service firm Life Corporation's subsidiary Eternal Pure Land.

The new building will be the 37-year-old society's first temple. The group operates more than 70 centres and services such as the Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital. It also runs four welfare homes, five family service centres and 16 senior activity centres.

Besides storing the tablets there, people will also be encouraged to submit and screen videos dedicated to the lives of their late loved ones in the planned hall.

Thye Hua Kwan chairman Lee Kim Siang said: "There will be no ashes and urns in our new temple, but just a hall for people to remember their elders with the aim of promoting good morals."

The new building, budgeted at about $10 million, will likely have four or five storeys. It will have worship spaces dedicated to Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian deities, and lecture halls where multi-religious courses will be held.

Mr Lee emphasised the multi-religious nature of his organisation, saying it has organised inter-racial and inter-religious harmony nights over the past 12 years.

The other bidders for the plot were the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Singapore, Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association and Taoist Peng Hong Association, which placed bids of $4.58 million, $3.88 million and $3.03 million respectively.

HDB first awarded the site, near Build-To-Order homes in Fernvale Lea, to Eternal Pure Land in July last year. Residents protested against the plans for a commercial columbarium on land earmarked for religious use, and the company's $5.2 million bid was cancelled in May.

The authorities introduced new conditions for the tender in June - only religious groups were allowed to bid, including registered societies, charities and non-profit firms.

Sengkang West residents feel more comfortable with a religious society running the building. Mr Peter Leow, a 42-year-old human resource manager, said: "Thye Hua Kwan is an established name without any commercial aims. It is also common for temples to have space dedicated to ancestral tablets."

Future Fernvale Lea resident S.N. Khan, a 29-year-old housewife, said there are already "many Chinese temples in Sengkang West Way". She added: "I hope there will be space dedicated to mosques, Indian temples and churches. I also hope that the new Chinese temple will be able to serve the community regardless of race or religion."

Thye Hua Kwan will appoint architectural firm Lee Coo Consultant Associates to design the building, said Mr Lee. The project is expected to be completed in three to four years.

Mr Lee said he was glad the society won the tender. "It's affinity. The time has come for us to build a temple to serve the community.

"Everyone needs a space where he can be comfortable to meditate and sit quietly to pray, whatever his religion."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society wins bid for Fernvale Link site. Subscribe