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Buddha Tooth Relic temple Museum Chinatown

Stepping into the heart of Chinatown in Singapore, amidst the bustling streets and vibrant atmosphere, lies a sanctuary of tranquillity and spirituality- the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Nestled in Chinatown Sago Lane, this architectural gem stands as a testament to the rich traditions of Chinese Buddhism and serves as a revered destination for locals and visitors seeking solace and enlightenment.

View from buzzing Chinatown complex with line-dances in-tow.
View from buzzing Chinatown complex with line-dances in-tow.

Lets delve into the marvels of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, exploring its diverse exhibits, captivating history, and the ethereal tranquillity that awaits those who seek solace within its sacred walls. Together, let us embark on a spiritual odyssey that will ignite our curiosity, nurture our souls, and leave an indelible impression of this timeless bastion of Buddhist wisdom and devotion.

The rear entrance of the Tooth relic temple, opposite from South Bridge road
The rear entrance of the Tooth relic temple, opposite from South Bridge road.

Hundred dragon hall and Buddha Maitreya statue

Entering the temple, one arrives at the ground floor via the front mountain gate. It leads to the front courtyard and the hundred dragon hall. Within this hall, there is a double volume space measuring 27 feet in height, specifically designed to house the 4.5m tall Buddha Maitreya statue.

Hundred dragon hall and Buddha Maitreya statue
The temple’s Hundred dragon hall and Buddha Maitreya statue at the ground floor.

Here within, the walls are adorned with statues of deities and rows of candle offerings. Continuing onward, you will come across the Universal wisdom hall, located at the back of the temple. Rows of lit lanterns hang from the ceiling here in a large prayer hall. You can also find tall walls adored with rows of candles with various deities you can offer the candles to.

Universal wisdom hall
Universal wisdom hall

Also, this rear entrance also leads out through the rear into the Chinatown complex and event area situated behind it. Interestingly, you can find shelves of temple merchandise and donation boxes you can contribute to. In keeping with times, cashless payments via automated payment machines here are accepted.

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Wall of Buddhas
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Rear courtyard
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Prayer altars

Furthermore, let’s delve into the history of the temple and explore how the idea to construct it came about. A notable figure in this story is the distinguished Singaporean abbot who founded the tooth relic museum.

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Front mountain gate
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Front courtyard
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Temple shop

In August 2002, Venerable Cakkapala made the decision to entrust the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic to Venerable Shi Fa Zhao. Also, Venerable Shi Fa Zhao urged the new custodian to seize the opportunity to build a monastery dedicated to the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic. The aim was to create a place where Buddhists from all around the world could gather in Singapore for veneration.

Museum of Buddhist artifacts

Moreover, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown is not just a temple, but a multi-storey building that houses a small collection of air-conditioned museums and galleries. The mezzanine floor is particularly noteworthy, as it is home to the Dharma Hall where Buddhist ceremonies are held.

Museum of Buddhist artifacts.
Museum of Buddhist artifacts.

Additionally, the floor houses the Eminent Sangha Museum, which features a collection of wax figures depicting notable monks from both local and overseas backgrounds. It paints the heads of each of the various temples in the region too. It’s has a vibe as a wax museum for Buddha in South Asia. The figures themselves are professionally made, complete with accurate skin and hair, it rivals those from Madame Tussauds museums too.

Distinguished abbots and venerables
Distinguished abbots and venerables

Also, notable figures, such as the Venerable Fa Zhao, who oversees the operations of this temple, can be found here. Adored around his wax figure Furthermore, visitors can explore a historical map tracing the spread of Buddhism across Asia and in relation to Singapore. It provides insights into its historical development.

Map tracing the spread of Buddhism across Asia
Map tracing the spread of Buddhism across Asia.

You can also find a small collection of statue figures, such as Chinese deities which could not otherwise go in the Buddhas of the world museum galleries upstairs. More on that later.

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Spread of Buddhism infographic
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Mezzanine mini gallery
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Decorative altar

Story of construction of the temple

Also, on the mezzanine floor, in addition to some statues of Chinese deities, an interesting gallery section here is dedicated to the history and construction concepts of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Sitting behind glass displays, visitors can learn about the architectural style of the building, which drew design inspiration from the Tang dynasty.

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Temple floorplan
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Building plans
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Deity statues

After ten revisions, this final design was chosen, resulting in the magnificent structure that stands today. Moreover, visitors can observe various building fixtures, construction plans and explore the diverse tile designs and colours that were considered during the construction process.

Moreover, located on an empty plot of land opposite the Maxwell Hawker Center on Sago Lane. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was constructed next to the Chinatown Complex and an open-air public car park along South Bridge road. Also, construction company Sato Kogyo (S) Private Limited. acquired the land and undertook the construction project.

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Eminent Sangha Museum
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Decorative lanterns
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Along south bridge road

Also, the commencement of the construction was marked by a ground-breaking Ceremony on 13 March 2005, with completion in 2007. Visitors can observe the different architectural elements and appreciate the various tile designs that were considered during the construction process.

Bodhisattvas of the World Museum

Moving up to the second floor, visitors will find the Bodhisattvas of the World Museum. Here, they can see several statues depicting the Bodhisattva Manjusri, an important figure in Buddhist tradition.

Second floor mixed galleries
Second floor mixed galleries

Additionally, the temple’s third floor houses the Buddhas of the World Museum. Here, the galleries showcases a collection of Buddha artifacts acquired by the temple over the years. It is tad a curated collection which evolves over the times.

Buddhas from around the world purchased and donated from private collections.
Buddhas from around the world purchased and donated from private collections.

Also, these artifacts origins range from donations made by individuals and private collections to purchases made through auctions. Some items were also gifted by Buddhist organisations and temples from around the region too.

Trinkets gifted to the temple on display behind glass
Trinkets gifted to the temple on display behind glass.

Furthermore, there is a small gallery that contains Buddha relics, providing visitors with a deeper connection to the spiritual significance of the temple. You are good for the 3 floors of temple’s museum galleries for about a 1-2 hours tops.

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Historical trinkets
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Tablets
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Gold foil

Tooth Relic on the Sacred Light Hall Chamber

Furthermore, the fourth floor is the highlight of the entire building, featuring the Buddha Tooth Relic Gallery. Known as the Sacred Light Hall Chamber, this chamber is adorned with intricate gold trims and offers a central open space with seating for meditation. Additionally, this chamber is air-conditioned and exudes a tranquil ambiance.

An official photograph of the tooth relic chambers, with gold flooring, where photography is not allowed
An official photograph of the tooth relic chambers, with gold flooring, where photography is not allowed.

Also, notably, the inner chamber of the Sacred Light Hall, where the actual Tooth Relic can be viewed through glass, boasts floor tiles made of gold. In the past, access to the tooth relic floor was restricted during occasions like Vesak Day, resulting in hour-long queues. However, now the gallery is open for access on all regular temple opening days, allowing visitors to appreciate this sacred artefact without significant waiting times.

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Museum introductions
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Elaborate display items
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Temple accessible stairs

Despite its ancient-inspired design, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a modern facility with amenities such as air conditioning, elevators, stairs with wheelchair ramps, and even a basement floor car park. These modern features provide convenience and accessibility for visitors. Also, visitors should dress modestly by wearing clothing that covers their shoulders and thighs, as a sign of respect to the sacred temple space.

Additionally, it is recommended to begin the temple tour on the ground floor halls and take the elevator to the fourth floor to witness the Tooth Relic highlight. Afterwards, ascending the stairs to the roof is suggested before exploring the museum galleries on the second, third, and mezzanine floors.

Tranquil roof garden

Garden greens on the temple's tranquil roof garden.
Garden greens on the temple’s tranquil roof garden.

Wrapping up, the fifth and top floor of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is dedicated to a roof garden and houses rotating lineage texts on prayer wheels. Prayer wheels are used to accumulate wisdom, merit, and purify negativities. Moreover, you can push the bell handles on the rim of the prayer wheel to initiate a clockwise rotation. It requires little force to keep it moving.

Rotating prayer wheel located in a hut on the top floor rooftop garden
Rotating prayer wheel located in a hut on the top floor rooftop garden.

Also, each revolution of the bell produces a chime, adding to the peaceful atmosphere of the top floor. Despite the lack of air conditioning up here, this quieter and more tranquil space offers charming gardens adorned with greenery and orchids, providing another serene environment that is suitable for meditation.

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Rooftop hut
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Rooftop garden
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Garden orchids

All in all, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple located in Sago Lane, Chinatown, is a remarkable treasure in the heart of historic Singapore. The museum complex, situated in the vibrant Singapore Chinatown district, is a place where Chinese Buddhism is officially practiced by the temple’s monastics and devotees. The temple and its chambers are open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, allowing you ample time to immerse themselves in the rich history and spirituality of this significant Buddhist site.

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