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Concrete Texture

Everyday Religious Practice

This page explores how vernacular shrines embody a wide variety of beliefs and understandings and their everyday importance in creating such sites of practice. These ideas are particularly intriguing as gods and deities feature prominently in the everyday life of many communities in Singapore.


For vernacular shrines, the divine is called upon to perform a variety of tasks by worshippers. These range from blessings for matters ranging from (but not limited to) protection, personal health, the pursuit of wealth, successful conjugal marriage, and success in education and business. Such functions then account for a part of the bewildering tapestry of reasons that create, sustain and even develop vernacular shrines, as the themes below will elaborate on.

Everyday Religious Pract

diversity & Pluralism

The vernacular shrines in Singapore can sometimes play host to a wide variety of religions. Such pluralism may manifest in the gods and deities of different religious faith co-existing together in the same altar and shrine space. Offerings at such sites are likewise as diverse and do overlap at times.


Definite ethnic and religious lines are thus difficult to distinguish at these vernacular shrines, with statues like Chinese First Paternal Uncle, Dabegong alongside Ganesha at some of these sites.

Efficacy & SPontaneity

Vernacular shrines are emblematic of the everyday routines and religious practices that individuals within Singaporean communities take part in. This also includes communities such as migrant workers or overseas visitors, who may recognize and pray to some of the deities represented at these informal sites of practice.


To these individuals, vernacular shrines offer an informal religious avenue for them to express their religiosity in a quick and spontaneous manner and importantly, to ask for blessings and godly help without the need to specifically go to a formal religious institution.

Light and Shadow

Diversity & Pluralism

Vernacular shrines often feature diverse and pluralistic deities. Such features provide a small informal physical space where individuals express their spiritualism and beliefs. The acceptance and integration of varying religious interpretations at vernacular shrines then reflect how some individuals in communities on this island adopt multi-cultural and multi-religious frameworks within their own practices.


The pluralistic small shrines that dot the local landscape are then arguably reflective of the society's peaceful co-existence of different religious faiths. These overlaps at vernacular shrines also suggest how these sites are subtle yet unmistakable proof of religious harmony and co-existence within and between communities in Singapore.

Di & Pl
Light and Shadow

Efficacy & Spontaneity

Many individuals who are worshippers at vernacular shrines often do not have the time to visit formal religious institutions or attend their ceremonies. These sites are thus a unique feature in the local Singaporean religious landscape as they provide an alternative religious space for individuals within Singaporean society of different ethnicities to worship the gods and express their religiosity.


The efficacy of the gods and deities at these shrines is sometimes another element that may draw worshippers. Some, after all, pray to deities for luck and monetary rewards in matters like the lottery, while others ask for safety and health.


Attributions to the divine for lotteries struck or recoveries from illness may then see certain shrines' popularity spread by word of mouth. Beneficiaries of such assistance may then offer food, flowers, incense, and prayers. Others have donated significant funds to rebuild certain shrines, contributing to these sites' continuation, development, and physical presence in the landscape of Singapore.

Eff & Sp
Design Book

Still curious?
Here are some additional resources!

Tua Pek Gong Tree


The Cult of the Underworld in Singapore

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