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April 25, 2012

Hokkien string puppet and Teochew iron stick puppet performances during Mazu's birthday

Mazu Festival
13 Apr 12 (3M23)
1445H – 1610H
Thian Hock Keng
After the Hainanese Tian Hou Gong, our little party headed for Thian Hock Keng in a taxi. Couldn’t believe that at this time in the day, it was a challenge to grab a taxi from Purvis St. Finally we managed. When we mentioned Thian Hock Keng to the taxi driver, who is probably in his 50s, there were some hesitation in his reaction. The data was probably hidden somewhere deep in his cells? Anyway, he knew his way.

At Thian Hock Keng, the Hokkien String Puppet show was on, with one or two persons watching. But since the puppet shows are for the Gods, there’s little concerns. In the old days, it was probably an attraction for the people who has no other forms of entertainment and a delight for the kids. These days, it was more of a necessity and an obligation to the Gods. We went into the temple. Apart from the side, the main hall had been restored (I was trying to look for the bats .. saw them flying but not hanging from the eaves) and the place was “barricaded”. Two officially looking guards (outsourced security guards) were on duty not allowing people to idle near to the main altar where the Birthday Offerings (ho siu in Hokkien) was being made, led by the Taoist Priests. The Buddhist monks had conducted the Buddhist rituals in the two days before. There were also many tourists trying to take pictures. The new house rule was that they could only take pictures from the courtyard.

Saw some familiar faces in the SHHK volunteers helping out in this event and so got to talk to them. No chance to capture the rituals but I think the official photographer has it. I must try to apply for a “permanent photographer” pass from THK for the next few events. 
In the din of the rituals and the constant flow of devotees and tourists, a few of us were engaged in deep discussions about the rituals, the practices, the beliefs and the consequences of short-cuts in the way we do things in modern times. If only I would tape them discussions and then voice over from the video clip, it would have been a wonderful collection.

It took us a while to re-gather to move to the next stop.
Wak Hai Cheng Beo
A short stroll along Telok Ayer St to Phillip St, we came to a much quieter Teochew Temple. It was already late afternoon and so, the crowd must have thinned out. The temple is under renovation and restoration and so, the activities were focussed on the courtyard which already had a temporary housing where the altar was set up. On the side was the Teochew Rod Puppet. Alas, the show was over by the time we went there and they would only perform at 7.30pm again.

In the small rather confined space, there was also a constant stream of devotees. Many of the devotees were known faces to the temple keepers who must have been managing this temple for generations.
As usual, each of us were in different directions, some in pay respects to Mazu, and others in chatting with the temple helpers and people there.

 We had a tipoff earlier to visit this Mazu temple in a Putian Association. And so, we thought we had better go as it was already 4pm. And so, off to the MRT station we went.


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for your extremely fascinating blog! I'm a tourist visiting Singapore and I'm hoping to buy a marionette puppet as a souvenir for my father-in-law. Can you tell me where I can get one in Singapore?

  2. Hi Ralph,

    Thanks for your kind compliment about my blog. Actually in Singapore, I have not come across any shop that sells Chinese puppets. There are actually many more in HK and China which are cheaper too.