Founded in 1898, the Seng Wong Beo Temple is one of the oldest City God temples in Singapore. It is dedicated to the most senior City God found in Singapore, the Provincial City God or Wei Ling Gong.
According to Chinese tradition, the City Gods as protectors of territories are relied upon by residents for communal concerns such as rain, natural disasters and crises, or even personal concerns like recovering from illnesses. Sometimes, residents who are accused of crimes may also call upon the City God to provide a sign that could help prove their innocence.
The Temple was founded by Reverend Swee Oi and Khoo Seok Wan, a pair of good friends who are said to have bonded over their love for poetry and art. Reverend Swee Oi was an abbot at the Hong San See Temple, and also an imperial scholar during the Qing Dynasty while Khoo Seok Wan was a literary scholar.
The Seng Wong Beo Temple played an important role in easing the hardships of the early Chinese settlers from China who mainly settled in Tanjong Pagar and Telok Ayer. Apart from their hard work as labourers, they also commonly fell ill, felt lonely and were home-sick. Hence, the temple was built so that the Chinese community could worship and pray for the well-being of their loved ones back home in China.
Apart from its elements of traditional Chinese architecture, the temple is unique for its combination of elements from both Buddhist and Taoist worship under one roof. While the Provincial City God is the main diety housed in the temple, other deities such as the White Tiger General, Yama King, and Azure Dragon are also worshipped within the temple. The temple also houses some ancestral tablets. You might also be able to spot Reverend Swee Oi’s ancestral tablet that is also housed within the temple!
The Seng Wong Beo Temple was also known at one time to be one of the few temples in Singapore conducting ghost marriages. Although the ritual is shrouded in mystery, the temple was known to have conducted the mysterious ritual for over a hundred years, although they have since ceased to conduct this ritual. Within the temple, you will also spot an ancient banyan tree that is said to have been there for more than 100 years. It is speculated that Khoo and Swee had lively conversations about poetry and art under the tree. The temple grounds were eventually requisitioned by the Singapore government in 1985.