Chinese Temple in Brunei Town

There seemed to be a rush of entries yesterday about the development in Brunei. For today I thought I will look at the Chinese Temple. I wrote about the old Chinese Temple a couple of years back and received interesting comments. The original Chinese Temple is not at its location in front of Sungai Kianggeh. It was originally at the wharf. During the early 1950s, you can still find the old temple in between the Customs Building and the old Government Rest House (that Rest House became the Pelita Brunei office in the 1970s and 1980s and now completely demolished).

This is what it looked like around 1920s:

According to a research paper I came across, this first Chinese Temple was built in 1918. As the first World War raged on in Europe, apparently times were good for the Chinese towkays in Brunei. The Chinese businessmen were among the first to heed the British Resident's call to set up shops away from the Kampong Ayer. The original town centre on Kampong Ayer then was Kampong Bakut China, now known as Kampong Pekan Lama. The Chinese community then, mostly Hokkien from the Island of Quemoy were engaged in 'revenue farms' - agricultural areas let by the British Resident to grow cash crops such as tobacco and opium as well as do business including spirits, kerosene and matches. They were also engaged in amassing land especially rubber plantations and also rice plantations. So, it was a prosperous time for the community.

In 1918, Dato Cheok Boon Siok was the Dato Temenggong and he owned land and shophouses up and down the street now known as Jalan Sultan. The site chosen in front of Brunei River was geomantically suitable and owned by him which he donated to the building of that first temple. The temple when it was built was considered as a remarkable piece of architecture and cost around $8,075.50 (Straits Dollar) which is a considerable sum in those days. The money came from donations from shops and individuals in Labuan, Limbang and Brunei as well as levies on tobacco and white rice imports. The top contributor was a shop named Choon Guan.

The temple was named Teng Yun Temple (Temple of Flying Clouds) but it became better known as Twa Pa Kung Temple (Great Uncle Temple). The new temple in Jalan Kianggeh is also known officially as the Hall of Flying Clouds. The temple survived the bombings of the Second World War but by then the need of the expanding port led the government to acquire the area of the temple and that was when the temple was demolished and a new one is built where it is currently. The government provided $45,000 to the building of the new temple in 1960.

KH added this comment - "After the temple was built, a plaque was put up with the list of people who donated towards the construction. The plaque was made of wood, roughly 3 foot high and 8 foot wide and inscribed with the names of donors and the amount of their largesse in Chinese and cut into the wood with a blade. Years later, apparently there was a bitter dispute and someone took a saw an cut away a chunk of the plaque. The plaque is now tucked away in a quiet corner of the current temple.

The second story is that the temple was the only large building standing after the bombardments of Brunei Town in World War 2, first by the Japanese and Allies. My uncle remembers after the second bombing people were amused to find an unexploded bomb in the temple courtyard."

This is a photograph of the surviving Chinese Temple in the background after the aftermath of the Allied Forces bombing during the Second World War.

In the 1960s, the newly relocated temple was at Jalan Kianggeh. This is one of the earliest postcards showing that new temple:-


Anonymous said…
thanks for the post! i've been telling people that the current temple survived the 2nd world war, now i know is the wrong one.

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