Revered as one of the holiest Buddhist sites in all of Penang, the Kuan Yin Temple is a sacred space which has been devoted to the worship of the Goddess of Mercy for more than two centuries. Built as far back as 200 years ago, this popular attraction among Buddhist devotees is located in George Town’s Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling area. Spread out across a vast expanse the yellow hued walls of the ancient religious institution foretells its age and era with the structure bearing architectural leanings that can be described as a mixture of Hokkein and Cantonese styles.
Regarded as one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country, the venue was once ranked among the most stunning Chinese temple complexes in Northern Malaya. Its worn and large bells have often been compared to those in Paris’s Notre Dame in scale while dragon figures are found on the elaborate roofs of the temple with dragons and lion figures decorating various corners of the holy structure as guardians of this sacred space.
The temple’s inner shrine contains a stunning sculpture of Kuan Yin with her 18 arms each holding a cosmic charm or demonstrating a spiritual position. Known as of the prominent deities in Mahayana Buddhism, The Goddess of Mercy also dubbed Kuan Yin is a benevolent goddess that is renowned for her boundless compassion and is identified by her white robes and often represented holding a lotus flower in one hand with prayer beads occupying the other. The three wells in the temple have been constructed according to Feng Shui with one located beneath the central alter, one to the right of the shrine and one located outside the temple. Devotees attribute healing properties to the wells’ holy water which is believed to cure many ailments.
Gold and silver coloured paper offerings are burned at the courtyard’s two iron hearths while an octagonal shape well is also found in the area.
The Chinese New Year sees an influx of visitors to the temple as devotees come to pray for good health and success in the New Year while the temple also comes alive with song and dance during the deities’ three birthday celebrations. Chinese opera performances are a key feature of these celebrations in which offerings and the scent of incense fill the air of this ancient venue.
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Chandrishan Williams is a travel writer who writes under the pen name, Caleb Falcon. He specializes in writing content based on the many exciting world adventures that await intrepid travellers.