Rare records from Hong San See temple donated to National Library Board

Details of how the Hong San See temple was built feature in seven "rare" account books which have been donated to the National Library Board.
Details of how the Hong San See temple was built feature in seven "rare" account books which have been donated to the National Library Board.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To construct the Hong San See temple - now a national monument - bricks were ordered by the "trishaw-load".

Details of how the Hokkien temple was built, including the names of the craftsmen and expenditure on construction and building materials, feature in seven "rare" account books which have been donated to the National Library Board (NLB) by the Singapore Lam Ann Association.

The association has been managing the temple at Mohamed Sultan Road since 1924.

The NLB said the records are primary research materials and "will help Singaporeans understand the history of the temple, provide useful evidence on the history of the early building and construction sector in Singapore, as well as a snapshot of the living standards in early Singapore".

The materials will be made accessible to researchers and members of the public at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library at 100 Victoria Street.

The place of worship is decorated with carvings and sculptures, including dancing dragon figures. It was designed and built by Lim Loh - a contractor and the father of World War II hero Lim Bo Seng - with construction taking place between 1908 and 1913.

The Singapore Lam Ann Association also donated marriage certificates issued by the association.

Dating from 1935 to 1960, they reflect the role played by the association in solemnising marriages within the community before the Registry of Marriages was set up in 1961, according to NLB.

The association's chairman, Mr Tan Aik Hock, 49, said most of the temple and association's records were destroyed during World War II. The remaining ones are precious and best kept with NLB, he said.

"As a committee, we are happy that the items have landed in good hands," said Mr Tan. "Instead of keeping the documents in our safe, we decided to donate them to the library so more people, including our own members, can have access to them.

"NLB also has the expertise in treating old artefacts which might encounter problems such as book worms."

Over the past two years, the NLB has received donations from five Chinese clan associations.

NLB director, Mrs Wai Yin Pryke, said it welcomes donations of materials on Singapore and South-east Asian history that will enrich the existing collection.

"We receive donations from many sources, including clan associations, organisations and individual collectors. We plan to engage more donors this year, with the Singapore Lam Ann Association being one of the first."

A selection of the Hong San See temple records will also be digitised and made accessible via the NLB's BookSG website at http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/printheritage/