Hong San See Temple wins top UNESCO award
By Evelyn Lam Li Ting | Posted: 25 November 2010 2325 hrs
Hong San See Temple 新加坡鳳山寺 (Photo by Jack)
SINGAPORE: The Hong San See Temple at Mohamed Sultan Road has won the highest UNESCO award for excellence in heritage conservation.
The temple received the Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation from UNESCO on November 22.
Built between 1908 and 1912, the temple revives the Minnan temple architecture of southern China from the late Qing Dynasty.
The Minnan dialect originates from the southern part of China’s Fujian province.
In Singapore, the variants of the Minnan dialect include Teochew and Hokkien.
In 1978, the temple, owned by the Singapore Lam Ann Association – a Hokkien clan group – was gazetted by the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB).
In 2009, the temple received funding for restoration works and sought the help of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the PMB.
The project beat 33 entries from 14 countries to win the award.
“It’s very prestigious because it really highlights for an audience all over the world the importance of cultural heritage in Asia and the Pacific, and in particular, the involvement of the local communities in preserving their heritage,” said Etiene Clement, deputy director of UNESCO Bangkok.
“There’s not many which over the past ten years have got the award of excellence. There’s even not one every year. So for this year, there’s only one, which is this temple.”
UNESCO said rigorous methods were used in the project’s conservation which have kept the authentic structure of the building well-preserved.
Mr Clement said there were a few reasons why the temple won. “Among them was the fact that they were looking for perfection…..Perfection, (it) doesn’t mean that everything needs to be restored to look new. On the contrary, it needs to be restored in a way that tells the story of the monument,” he said.
For more information on the cult of Guangze Zunwang and the Hong San See temple networks, you can read my dissertation “Sacred Ties across the Seas: The Cult of Guangze Zunwang and its Religious Network in the Chinese Diaspora, 19th Century -2009.”