BUKIT MERTAJAM: Refurbishment work will be carried out to restore the 133-year-old Hock Teck Cheng Sin Temple here to its former grandeur after its main prayer hall and storage unit were destroyed in a fire.
Temple chairman Datuk Chong Hut Hoo said a plan would be “redrawn” to rebuild the temple in Jalan Pasar.
“The temple committee had proposals to refurbish the temple two years ago, but nothing materialised.
“We had made plans to upgrade the temple and its surrounding areas then.
“Some of the measures were to increase safety as there are rows of heritage shophouses and dozens of hawker stalls nearby. Now, we will have to redraw the plan and carry out restoration soon.
“The temple means a lot to the people here. The restoration will certainly lift the spirits of the folk here,” Chong said during a site inspection yesterday.
On Wednesday, firemen managed to control the blaze that began at 8.40pm.
Most of the main prayer hall was razed, leaving only charred wooden pillars and beams on the roof.
Three statues of deities, including the principal deity Xuan Wu, were also destroyed together with Tua Pek Kong and Tam Kung.
“We will replace the statues with new ones,” Chong said.
The temple is a landmark in the historic town and was founded over 130 years ago by the early Chinese settlers.
Architect Alan Teh, 44, recalls visiting the temple during his teenage years.
“In the ‘80s, my grandmother would bring me past this temple whenever we headed to the market nearby.
“The temple was always bustling with people as all the activities and businesses in town revolved around it.
“It’s unfortunate that the temple was affected, but we should be positive and see it as a blessing in disguise.
“Hopefully, it will be refurbished and have all safety measures in check to prevent future mishaps,” he added.
Teh, who has conducted a study of the town, said the temple served as a significant site for people in Bukit Mertajam in its early days.
“When the temple was built, it created a lot of traffic and business opportunities for the shops and market nearby.
“Farmers in the early 19th century did not have weighing scales, so the temple provided the weighing service.
“The farmers would bring their vegetables to weigh and donate their profits in return.
“There used to be a pond in front of the temple, but the locals joined hands and collected stones to fill it up,” he said.
Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim, who visited the temple, said its outer walls remained standing.
“I believe that with the temple’s solid foundation and strong outer walls, we shall raise it again.
“It is Bukit Mertajam’s cultural and heritage monument and the starting point of Bukit Mertajam town.
“The government will assist in any way to help the association rebuild the temple,” said Sim, who also urged the people to lend a hand.