I finally succumbed to my mum’s perennial nagging and accompanied her on a trip to the Ji Gong (济公) Temple in Singapore earlier today. Cursory inquiries with relatives had thrown up the address of 2 Beatty Lane. I assumed all was well, until a quick Google search on my iPhone told me that the temple had since relocated, and the Tibetan Thekchen Choling temple now stands in its place.
Going through Google threw up yet another address for a certain Zi Yun Kai Ji Kong Temple. I dialed the accompanying number and received incomprehensible elderly mutterings when I asked if this was the Ji Gong Temple. In a fit of desperation, I sought help from my better half’s more divine-aware relatives. In the end, we were able to make sense of the cryptic directions, and found ourselves standing at the doors of Singapore’s one and only Ji Gong Temple, located at 67 Anchorvale Link, Singapore 545071.
My vague recollections of a weekly Ji Gong TV series many years ago hinted that the austerity of the temple was certainly in line with Ji Gong’s background, as were the roast chicken and rose wine offerings at the altar. My photographic itch needed a scratch or two, so I asked for Ji Gong’s understanding (mentally of course!) before firing away several shots with my crummy iPhone camera.
Apparently, the temple is registered under the dialect name of Chee Hwan Kog (星洲德教济芳阁) Singapore. The temple had been relocated twice, initially from Beatty Lane, before moving from its temporary location somewhere in Hougang to Anchorvale Link. We were told that ‘chan’ incense (禅香) was offered instead of the usual joss sticks. This ‘chan’ incense involves the placing of thin wooden strips and some yellowish incense powder into the incense pot.
One of Ji Gong’s most oft used phrase was 「酒肉穿肠过，佛在心中留」(What matters was the state of one’s heart, and not what passed through his/her gut), embodifying his drinking and meat-eating (most commonly dog meat), all of which were considered taboos in Buddhism, has led him to become stereotyped as an unconventional but kind and mad monk/deity in religious and cultural folklore.
I just wish the temple wasn’t so far from my place!