Written by Shirley T
Saturday, 20 June 2009 22:29
The Goddess of Mercy Temple in Penang George Town or fondly known locally as 'Kuan Yin Teng' in Hokkien dialect. Being the one of the oldest Chinese temples in Penang, it was built in 1728 by Chinese settlers boasting Hokkien and Cantonese architecture.
Located at the juncture where China Street meets Jalan Kapitan Keling (formerly known as Pitt Street), The Goddess of Mercy Temple is always incredibly active throughout the opening hours from as early as 6 am and as late as 8 pm.
If you pick any Chinese (or even some other ethics) Penangites, I bet more than 9 out of 10 will know where about the 'Kuan Yin Teng' (unless one does not catch your pronunciation!). For Taoist devotees, The Goddess of Mercy Temple is the place of worship where they seek good fortune, good health, good academic result, good marriage and everything that one can thought of in their prayers. In fact, this is also the place where the devotees are looking for salvation. In Malaysia, Goddess of Mercy or Kuan Yin (Guan Yin in Mandarin) is often depicted as female and according to Mahayana doctrine, she is a bodhisattva. She has vowed to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of difficulty and postpone her own Buddhahood (enlightenment) until she has assisted every being on Earth in attaining Nirvana.
The original name of this temple is Kong Hock Keong Temple which literally means 'The Temple for Cantonese and Hokkien' – the major ethics of early Chinese settlers in Penang. At the beginning this temple was constructed in dedication to Mar Chor Po (a patron deity that protects seafarers) and Goddess of Mercy. During the 19th century, most people were depending on sea as source of their economic income, thus they prayed for prosperity and guard from any sea spirits. As time evolves, it turned out be more popularly known as Goddess of Mercy as hearsay, this temple had provided shelter to Penangites during WWII.
Kuan Yin Teng or Kuan Im Teng also houses other deities including Tua Pek Kong, Hor Ya (Tiger God) and Tai Sui (God of the Year). What I recalled vividly as a young child years ago, my late grandfather would sort of read our 'destiny' of the new year based on an annual 'prediction' book. In the event of any obstacles foreseen, we would be encouraged to pray to either 'Hor Ya' or 'Tai Sui' based on individual's compatibility. Therefore, during Chinese New Year (day 1 to Day 15), this temple invites thousands of visitors in a day to perform special prayer for a blessed year
If your visit fall either first or fifteenth day of Lunar calendar, the temple's atmosphere is extremely lively! With the flowers and praying material (joss-stick, incense, candles, oil and burning paper) conveniently available outside the temple, one just needs to pay a small sum to perform their offering. Observing vegetarian diet is highly encouraged on these holy dates, thus sometimes you may found vegetarian food served there.
Nowadays, one may also see the little birdies on sale. The intention of releasing birds from its cage is meant to obtain good merit where it signifies new life, freedom and end of suffering (similar to Buddha's preaching in attaining Nirvana).
As one enters into the temple, it is usually smoky and crowded. The yellow stained wall, stone carving pillars and vintage floor evidence of century’s devotion. Take good care of your belongings!
Having said that, this atmosphere couldn't beat the days when the devotees celebrate the birth, renowned and enlightenment of Goddess of Mercy which falls on 19th day of 2nd, 6th and 9th Lunar month. Among the common views includes sea of people will come jostling, some will bring along fruits, flowers or vegetarian cookies/cakes as offering and burning gigantic incense at the fore courtyard. If you are lucky, catch a sneak of puppet or Chinese opera show (which is classified as almost a highly 'vulnerable' living heritage these days)! It is usually is put-up at granite-paved forecourt to celebrate this occasion!
Opening hours: 6:00am to 8:00pm daily
Entrance is free
Click here for Google Map.
If you are putting up in George Town, hop on the free shuttle bus provided by Penang State Government.
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