Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
While the Singapore Arts Museum and the Asian Civilization Museum are the more renowned museums in Singapore, deep in the heart of Chinatown lays a gem of a museum. Oddly named The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum; the museum-cum-temple is a cultural monument to behold. Though not as famous as its more contemporary counterparts, the museum is full of culture, history and religion housed under a gorgeous and intricately designed architecture, inspired by the Tang Dynasty.
Founded in 2002 by Venerable Shi Fazhao, the four storey temple/museum is dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha. Translated to English, it means The Compassionate One. Standing outside, admiring the architecture, the temple stands out from the other buildings in the vicinity, a definite treat for the eyes. Take a walk in and it will feel as though you are transported away from the hustle and bustle of Chinatown and into the Tang Dynasty era itself. It is indeed a breathtaking view all around and a unique experience to behold.
It is important to note here that the museum is after all located within the premises of a temple so if you are interested to visit the museum and the temple, appropriate attire is a definite must as a show of respect.
On the mezzanine floor of the building is the Eminent Sangha Museum. Featuring the images and life stories of the prominent monks in Singapore and all around the world, it sets the tone for the museum proper on the third floor. The monks tell a story of limitless devotion, promoting charity and providing food and shelter for the needy, their dedication worthy of awe and inspiration.
The third floor brings visitors into the museum proper, The Buddhist Culture Museum. With over 300 artifacts of Buddhist culture on display, it offers informative insights to the life of a Buddhist and the culture and arts that go with it. The artifacts were well-placed with huge murals explaining the history and meaning behind it. For the uninitiated, it offers a better understanding of Buddhism. With the Vision of the building to be the leading and best Buddhist cultural complex in the region, it definitely comes close to it with its inventory of artifacts coming from India, China, Tibet, Sri Lanka and many other countries. The Buddhist Culture Museum is a must visit for visitors going to Chinatown.
The Relic Chamber showcases several relics of Buddha, including the bone relic and blood relic of the Buddha. It showcases the symbolism of the energy left behind after the death of a venerable. It is said that seeing the relics is as good as seeing the Buddha in person and The Relic Chamber, with its wide open space and several huge stone casts will definitely leave a sensation of peace upon entering and leaving the chamber.
The History Gallery shows the years and dedication taken by the organization to build the tremendously stunning looking building from scratch and the turmoil years it faced. It showed that with patience, determination, devotion and enough support from the public, the temple finally became a reality for its followers.
Your tour of the museum will not be complete without a trip to the roof. The open space is filled with flowers of different types and colors so astounding, it will leave you an encompassing feel of warmth and grace. Amongst the flowers, is something to look out for, the Dendrobium Buddha Tooth Orchid. An orchid flower named after the museum. Once your tour of the roof is complete, the second floor houses a tea house called the Lotus Heart Tea House. Currently closed for upgrading and renovation but once it opens, it offers one of the best tea, if not the best in the whole of Chinatown.
The tour will then be completed with a trip to the basement where the Nagapuspa Multi-Purpose Hall and the Dining Hall is located. The Multi-Purpose Hall is often used for exhibitions, cultural performances and talks relating to the different religions in Singapore and the Buddhism community in Singapore. During my trip to the temple and museum, they were having their birthday celebrations so various cultural dances and performances were held. The celebrations were indeed a complete eye-opener festive mood to behold. In the dining hall, sumptuous free vegetarian meals are provided to all visitors to the temple and museum. I was told the food was sponsored by various people, the same way the building was conceived by members of the public. I was also told that giving away food to anyone is the way of the Buddha, promoting harmonious spirit amongst every spirit and to do more good deeds in our lifetime.
Overall, this gem of a museum provides more cultural insight than the more renowned museums in Singapore. So if you are a local or a tourist making your way down to Chinatown, take a trip to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, I assure you, it will be an eye-opening experience!