A Journey Through the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore
From its imposing pagoda to its impressive interior design of richly decorated walls and ornate ceilings, in this blog, we will take a journey through the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Temple located in Chinatown, Singapore.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a significant spiritual site for Buddhists worldwide as it houses a relic believed to be a fragment of one of the Buddha's teeth. It is a Buddhist temple located in Singapore's Chinatown district. The temple's design is inspired by the Tang Dynasty period of China and features traditional Chinese architectural styles, including a pagoda and a prayer hall. In addition to the sacred tooth relic, the temple also houses a vast collection of ancient artefacts, including Buddhist statues, paintings, and manuscripts. The temple is a peaceful space for reflection and contemplation and is open to visitors daily. Keep reading as we take you on a journey through the history of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, its remarkable architecture, and the ancient artefacts this temple contains!
Photo Credit: Lion Heartlanders
Taking a Trip down the Memory Lane of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Have you ever wondered why this unique temple was named after a tooth? Well, it is also not just any tooth, so let’s dive right into how this temple came about!
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a relatively new temple in Singapore's Chinatown, but its roots go back centuries. The temple was built to house a sacred relic of the Buddha, a tooth that was said to have survived the Buddha's cremation. This relic has been passed down through the generations, and it is now enshrined in the temple's main hall. The idea for the temple first came about in the early 1980s when a group of Buddhist leaders in Singapore decided that they wanted to build a temple to house the Buddha's tooth relic. The plan was to create a place of worship and meditation where people could come to pay their respects to the Buddha and learn more about Buddhism.
Photo Credit: Visit Singapore
Now more about the precious relic that this sacred temple houses, its story lies behind the relic's discovery dates back to the 4th century BCE when the Buddha was cremated. It is said that one of the Buddha's teeth survived the cremation and was retrieved by his disciple, Khema. The tooth was passed down through generations and eventually found its way to Sri Lanka, where it was enshrined in a temple. In the late 1990s, the Singapore Buddhist Federation requested a relic from Sri Lanka to house in a new temple in Singapore. The request was granted, and in 2002, construction of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple began.
Before we move onto the temple’s gorgeous architectural features, let’s look at some outstanding milestones this temple has accomplished since it was built!
First on the list is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Opening Ceremony. The temple was officially opened on 30 May 2007, with a grand ceremony attended by over 10,000 people, among which were government officials, Buddhist leaders, and members of the public. The opening ceremony included a traditional lion dance, a dragon dance, and a performance by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Since then, the temple has become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Photo Credit: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Second, there is the Consecration Ceremony that took place on 17 May 2008. The temple's most important relic, the sacred tooth of the Buddha, was officially enshrined in the temple by the previous president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Venerable Shi Kwang Sheng. The consecration ceremony was attended by Buddhist monks from around the world and was considered a significant moment in the temple's history.
Next, since Vesak Day is a very important day for Buddhists, the temple hosts a Vesak Day Celebration and Dinner every year. The events in the celebration include chanting sessions, meditation classes, and vegetarian food provided. Annually, 300 senior citizens from the 3 Kreta Ayer Senior Activity Centres will be invited to join this celebration at the temple. Red Packets and goodie bags filled with essentials are also given out to senior citizens who attended the celebrations.
Photo Credit: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Admiring the Architectural Features of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Now that we know about the temple’s short yet rich history and some key events that have taken place in the temple throughout the years, this next part of the blog will definitely be aesthetically pleasant to your eyes, especially to those interested in architectural design!
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore is an architectural masterpiece that is renowned for its intricate exterior and interior design. The temple is located in the heart of Singapore's Chinatown district and is easily recognisable by its vibrant red and gold colour scheme.
Starting off with what we can admire from standing outside of the temple, its exterior design draws inspiration from the Tang Dynasty period of China, with its towering pagoda and ornate carvings. The pagoda stands at an impressive 32 meters high and is adorned with intricate carvings of dragons, phoenixes, and other traditional Chinese motifs. The pagoda's design is meant to represent Buddhist cosmology, with each tier representing a different stage of enlightenment that one must achieve to attain Nirvana. The temple's courtyard is also an impressive sight to behold, with traditional Chinese buildings lining the courtyard's perimeter. The buildings house various museum exhibitions and a vegetarian restaurant, and their design is meant to evoke the rich cultural heritage of Singapore's Chinatown.
As you step foot inside the open doors of the temple’s main entrance, you will notice that its interior is just as impressive as its exterior, with a sprawling prayer hall that can accommodate up to a thousand worshippers. The prayer hall is lined with towering pillars, each adorned with intricate carvings of dragons, phoenixes, and other mythical creatures. The pillars are meant to represent the Four Noble Truths, which are central to Buddhist teachings. The walls and ceilings of the prayer hall are painted with vivid depictions of Buddhist legends and myths, and the floors are covered in intricate marble designs. The altar, which houses the sacred tooth relic, is the centrepiece of the prayer hall and is surrounded by ornate carvings of Buddhist deities and mythical creatures.
Photo Credit: Conde Nast Traveler
So many gorgeous features for your eyes to feast on but what are some notable features of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple? Let’s find out!
While outside the temple you will definitely see a six-storey structure which stands at the corner of the temple complex, that right there is a pagoda known as The Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas. It is designed in the Tang Dynasty architectural style, characterised by its tiered roofs, intricate carvings, and bright colours. The pagoda is adorned with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and features a spiral staircase that leads to the top, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding cityscape. Not only do you get a good exercise, you get to see with your own two eyes a sight not commonly seen, so do remember to bring your cameras to capture this magnificent sight!
Photo Credit: Chinatown Singapore
With our outdoor notable feature of the temple, we have our indoor notable feature which is the prayer hall. You may be wondering, “What’s so interesting about a prayer hall?” Let us bring you to the heart of the temple where this is not just any kind of prayer hall you see in any temple. The prayer hall that you will enter is a large and cavernous space that can accommodate up to a thousand people at a time. It is designed in the style of the Tang Dynasty Buddhist architecture, with high ceilings, ornate carvings, and intricate artwork. The centrepiece of the hall is the giant gold stupa, which houses the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
More about this magnificent prayer hall, it is also home to several other notable features, including the Vairocana Buddha, a towering statue of the Buddha that stands at over three meters tall, and the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, a statue of the Buddhist deity that is believed to grant blessings to those who pray to it.
Both the pagoda and prayer hall of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple are stunning architectural features that showcase the rich cultural heritage of Buddhism and the unique artistic and architectural styles of the Tang Dynasty.
Enjoy learning about the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple’s Fun Facts
There is more to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple apart from its history and aesthetically pleasing architectural features. For example, did you know that the temple's design incorporates feng shui principles, with the main entrance facing east to receive the morning sun and the layout of the building following the principles of harmony and balance. Keep on scrolling as we re-discover some more Fun Facts!
The first fun fact has been slightly mentioned previously if you have been reading until now! If you have guessed something to do with the temple’s time in Singapore ever since its Grand Opening Ceremony, you are correct! The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is not actually ancient even though it has a traditional and ornate appearance. It is a relatively new addition to Singapore’s cultural landscape having been only constructed in 2007. This would mean some of us are actually older than this temple!
Time for Fun Fact 2! Although we have only mentioned in the above that this temple houses the Sacred Buddha Tooth, it is actually the main attraction among many others over 300 Buddhist artefacts that originate from all over Asia. You will also be able to spot a certain bell from Sri Lanka and a set of prayer wheels from Tibet. With so many artefacts all being housed by this huge temple, are you able to see everything in just one visit? Well, that’s up to you to find out!
Moving on to Fun Fact 3! This goes out to those nature lovers and those finding the best place for tranquility and meditation. At the rooftop of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Temple, lies a rooftop garden which is one of their unique features. It is open to the public and offers a peaceful oasis in the heart of the bustling city. The garden is home to over 100 species of plants and is designed to reflect the principles of Buddhist cosmology. Just like a 2-in-1 package, you get to enjoy a peaceful time with yourself and your loved ones, and also learn more about Buddhist cosmology!
Photo Credit: Once in a Lifetime Journey
If you are a pet lover, especially cats, this is your lucky day as Fun Fact 4 talks about the temple’s resident cat, Xiangxiang! Anyone who has gone to the temple will have met this friendly feline mostly seen lounging in the temple's courtyard or napping in the shade. This cat has already become a celebrity at the temple itself so be sure to grab a chance to pay a visit to this cat while you are at the temple!
Want to visit a place of worship? Visit Buddha Tooth Relic Temple! Want to learn more about Buddhist Culture? Visit Buddha Tooth Relic Temple! At Fun Fact 5, we introduce you to the cultural and educational programs that this temple offers. It offers a range of programs, including meditation classes, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy workshops, aimed at promoting greater understanding and appreciation of Buddhist culture.
Photo Credit: Rethinking The Future
Last but not least, we have Fun Fact 6 and we saved the best for the last! Did you know the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple has a giant Buddha statue made entirely of gold? Located in the basement of the temple, the 3.5-meter-tall Buddha statue is made entirely of gold and weighs over 300 kilograms. It is an impressive sight and is believed to be one of the largest solid gold Buddha statues in the world. Upon hearing the mention of gold, we knew you money lovers out there will be interested! However, do take note that this statue is for display purposes!
As a summary, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a destination not only for locals in Singapore but also for tourists to explore and discover new things about Singapore and Buddhist Culture. It offers a unique blend of religious significance, cultural heritage, and architectural beauty, making it a must-visit destination in Singapore.
About Getting There…
Address: 288 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058840
Nearest MRT Stations:
Chinatown MRT Station (DT19, NE4) about 5 mins walk via Exit Exit A
Tanjong Pagar MRT Station (EW15) about 10 mins walk via Exit G
Maxwell MRT Station (TE18) about 1 mins walk
61, 166, 197, 851, 961, and 970
(Stop 05199, Bef South Bridge Rd)
2, 12, 33, 54, 63, 124, 143, 147, 190, 520, 851, 961, and 970
(Stop 05131, Aft South Bridge Rd)
In a Nutshell...
Before you visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, we are providing the following information: opening hours, entry fee, and dress code.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore is open daily from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Admission to the temple is free, but donations are welcome to support the upkeep of the temple. As the temple is a place of worship, visitors are required to dress modestly and respectfully. This means that shorts, skirts, and sleeveless tops are not allowed, and visitors are encouraged to cover their shoulders and knees. Sarongs and shawls are available for rent at the temple entrance for those who need them.
What a journey we’ve been through! You have finally reached the end of the blog! Today, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple continues to be a significant spiritual site for Buddhists worldwide, as well as a popular tourist destination in Singapore. From its stunning architecture and design to its historical and spiritual significance, the temple provides a truly immersive experience that is both informative and awe-inspiring. The temple's use of feng shui principles in its design, its beautiful rooftop garden, and its impressive museum exhibits all add to the charm and allure of this sacred space. A visit to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore is truly a journey that is not to be missed.
Interested in bringing your team or classes to learn and have fun in Singapore? Come and join us on our Guided Walks, Guided Bus Tours, and Outdoor Learning Journeys! Do also check out our previous articles on other temples like Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple: A Symbol of Chinese Culture & Tradition in Singapore and other places of worship like Discovering the Spiritual Heart of Singapore: A Guide to Places of Worship as well if you are interested!