Ipoh cave temple an art masterpiece

TOURIST Scott Barclay from Newcastle travelled all the way from England to see the murals and Chinese calligraphy at the Perak Cave Temple in Ipoh. 

“The artwork is extremely beautiful and has an interesting symbolism,” said the 30-year-old IT teacher, who read about the cave temple from the Lonely Planet World Guide. 

Visitors making their way up to the pavilion on the third level of the cave temple.

He said the place was a blend of nature, art and religion. 

According to temple chairman Chong Yin Chat, some 200,000 people visit the cave temple fondly referred to as Perak Yong by the locals, yearly. It sits at the foot of a 135m high limestone outcrop on a five hectare plot of land.  

On Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman (the old trunk road formerly known as Jalan Kuala Kangsar), the temple is not far from the Jelapang and Ipoh Selatan exits on the North-South Expressway.  

The temple has been featured on Asian and European television programmes and most recently in the local travel game show Explorace on TV3.  

In the main chamber there is a 15m tall Sakyamuni Buddha statue, while the inner chamber houses the Maitreya Buddha statue or Laughing Buddha. 

The fascinating formations of stalactites and stalagmites in floral shapes and figures resembling dragons, phoenixes and other creatures in the cave are amazing sights.  

According to Chong, it is the paintings and calligraphic masterpieces by famous artists from all over the world that make the cave unique.  

“It is a place of worship, a centre of Chinese culture and heritage and a place to relax,” he said.  

Visiting Chinese artists and scholars have often referred to the temple as China's Dunghuang Cave in Xi'an because of their similarities. 

Pek Lik Tong (Perak Cave) is etched in Chinese characters on the rocks at the entrance.  

The 15m-tall Sakyamuni Buddha in the main prayer chamber.

It was the work of Hu Shih (1891-1962) who led Chinese writers to start a literary revolution known as the Chinese Renaissance in 1917.  

It was their attempt to advocate the written use of colloquial language and to heighten its status as a means of scholarly expression.  

“The first painting in the cave was that of the deity Wai To Pu Sa.” 

“It was painted by Tseng Hou-hsi, a Hong Kong artist famous for his paintings of Buddhist figures in 1957, when I was five years old then,” said Chong. 

Other artists and scholars whose work could be found in the temple include Chang Ta-chien, Chen Liu-lin, Yuan Yi-cheng, Li Ping-jen, Yi Chun-tso, Zhu Mo, Chang Jen-shih, Wang Shih-chao and Lee Siow-mong. 

Chong ... ‘it is a place of worship, a centre of Chinese culture and heritage and a place to relax.

Chong said the contour of the cave walls brought out the three-dimensional effect on the paintings. 

His father, Sen Yee, came to Ipoh from the Chiaoling County, Chiaying, in the Guangdong Province in 1926 and helped develop the cave.  

The then primeval jungle was developed in stages until his death in 1980 when Chong junior took over and added new features.  

The temple's exterior exudes an oriental aura. Below swaying willows at the entrance are an enchanting lotus pond, a pavilion and a statue of the Goddess of Mercy. 

On each side of the pond are more pavilions and two towers built in 2001 to house a giant bell and drum.  

“The latest addition is another pavilion on the third floor with an altar for the Ka Lam Pu Sa to bless the people and guard the cave temple,” said Chong. 

There is also a memorial dedicated to Chinese revolutionary hero Sun Yat-sen on the first floor.  

The temple is open daily from 8am to 5pm.

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