the vernacular shrines of Singapore
Hidden in plain sight.
Embedded in the everyday.
Have you ever noticed
the vernacular shrines of Singapore?
"Everyday Sacred" is a project attempting to understand some of the features, ideas, and images of these oft-overlooked, informal sites of practice that dot the island's landscape.
Such an effort brings into focus the rich, diverse, and fluid religious practices in Singapore. The presence of vernacular shrines within the landscape of this island reflects the intriguing complexity of our society's beliefs and relationships between individuals and communities.
We hope you enjoy this journey exploring the vernacular shrines of Singapore!
Deities to Meet
Here are some of the deities you might come across at the many vernacular shrines in Singapore.
Tua Pek Kong
Tua Pek Kong is a popular deity that can be found at many temples and shrines in Singapore. Translated literally, “Tua Pek Kong” means “Grand Uncle”. The deity is also worshipped by communities in other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. As it turns out, scholars have offered different perspectives on the identity of Tua Pek Kong. In a recent study on Tua Pek Kong in Malaysia and Singapore, religious studies scholar Jack Chia discusses three ways to look at the deity: as a brotherhood spirit, as a Sino-Malay deity, and as a Sinicised deity in the Chinese diaspora. Devotees pray to Tua Pek Kong for various things, including wealth, career progression, and health.
First & Second Grand Uncles
(Da Er Yebo)
The First and Second Grand Uncles are hell deities also known as the Black and White Impermanence Ghosts. Apart from shrines, you may also spot these two deities at many Daoist temples in Singapore. According to Magaret Chan, they oversee the escorting of spirits to the Underworld. The First and Second Grand Uncles are popularly worshipped by Singaporean, Malaysian, and Taiwanese devotees as gods of wealth.
The Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin, is a popular deity worshipped among Buddhist and Daoist communities in Singapore. The name “Guanyin” is the Chinese name for Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. There are many temples in Singapore dedicated to Guanyin. One well-known temple that features this goddess is the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho at Waterloo Street.
Datuk Kong, also known as Datuk Keramat or Nadugong, is said to refer to spirits dwelling within objects like trees, rocks, and so on. It has been described as a Sino-Malay spirit cult. The worship of the Datuk Gong in Singapore and Malaysia has seen Malay Datuks being worshipped at Chinese temples and smaller shrines in locations such as alleyways and under trees
Ganesha is a Hindu deity that you might recognise as the elephant-headed god. It is believed that worshipping Ganesha can help devotees remove obstacles in their lives. There are some temples dedicated to Ganesha including the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Saik Street. At the same time, you can also find Ganesha at many of Singapore’s vernacular shrines.
Glimpse the vernacular shrines of Singapore through some of the images the team has taken!
Discover the intriguing blend of characteristics that the vernacular shrines of Singapore display!