Temple with colourful past

ORIGINALLY the headquarters of the Tua Pek Kong secret society (also known as Khian Teik Tong), the Hock Teik Cheng Sin temple at Armenian Street in Penang is now 80% restored. 

Apart from restoration of the temple proper that costs an estimated RM1.3mil, 10 neighbouring shop houses, the temple gateway and a stage in front of the temple are also scheduled for restoration. 

Restoration committee chairman Tan Lye Hock said they had collected about RM800,000 in funds so far. 

Founded in 1844, the society moved to its current site in 1850. 

Various artefacts of the temple’s colourful history have been found there, said conservation consultant Tan Yeow Wooi, director of the Tan Yeow Wooi Culture and Heritage Research Studio. 

INTERESTING HISTORY:The front facade of the Hock Teik Cheng Sin temple.

“We found triangular fighting flags that were probably used during the 1867 Penang Riot. 

“The riot involved the Hokkien Tua Pek Kong and the Red Flag Society versus the Cantonese Ghee Hin and White Flag Society,” he told a group of 40 people from Penang Heritage Trust (PHT). 

The group was given an in- sight into the history of the temple as well as details about the restoration. 

The group was told that Tua Pek Kong society was constantly at war with rival clans and a secret passage at the side yard led to the premises of the Khoo Kongsi, its ally. 

Apart from the Poh Hock Seah association that conducts the annual chneah hoay (flame-watching) ceremony the temple is popular for, three more associations are also now based there.  

They are the Tong Kheng Seah, Cheng Hoe Seah and Hokkien Kongsi. 

”According to rumours, secret society members threw the heads of their enemies into a well on the temple grounds.  

“We spent RM1,300 to excavate the temple grounds to prove there was no such well. 

“We found instead nine layers of bricks at the corner of the grounds that lead us to suspect the first temple might have been situated there,” he said in his fascinating presentation about the restoration pro-cess. 

Restoration had been almost entirely based on a 1939 group photograph of the temple committee taken before the original architecture was defaced by damaging renovation work, he said.  

“We still keep the original building portions when possible, such as the door gods painting which was still good.” 

The guided tour was part of PHT's regular visits to various historical sites on the island. 

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