Tan Si Chong Su

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


Tan Si Chong Su, located on Magazine Road, was built in 1876 as the ancestral temple and assembly hall of the Tan clan in Singapore.1 This temple, which has a large Hokkien patronage, is still used as a repository for ancestral tablets.2 The architecture of the temple reflects the traditional temple style that was popular in southern China in the 19th century.3 On 19 November 1974, the temple was gazetted as a national monument.4 Although Tan Si Chong Su began as a temple for the Tan clan, it has been open to all Chinese worshippers since 1982.5

Tan Si Chong Su is located on reclaimed land at Boat Quay. Soon after the land was reclaimed in 1822, the area became an established trading centre and merchants began to settle in the Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay areas. Two well-known merchants and philanthropists, Tan Kim Cheng and Tan Beng Swee, offered to bear the full cost of construction of a temple to serve the Tan clan, and the temple was thereafter erected in 1876.6

Tan Si Chong Su was built on an area of 500 sq m, bound by Magazine Road, Havelock Road, Fisher Street and Boat Quay.7 The design of the temple was based on the temple architectural style favoured in the 19th century in southern China.8 The entrance of the temple once faced the river, until land reclamation pushed the temple farther inland.9

The building is heavily decorated with ornate carvings, mouldings and murals. The temple’s Minnan style is reflected in its eaves, beams, pillars, decorative lotus pendants and roof decorations. Dragons are depicted intertwined or dancing. The pagoda incense burner, a five-storey marble structure, is embellished with relief work.10

The temple has a sequence of two courtyards and two worship halls. The first courtyard separates the entrance and the main hall, where patron deities are housed. The second courtyard lies between the main hall and the rear hall, which contains the ancestral tablets of prominent members of the Tan clan. Po Chiak School, a boys’ school founded in 1889, used to occupy one wing of the temple. It closed in 1949.11

Carved lacquer, gilded timber, bright paint colours and an elaborate beam and bracket structural system reflect the prosperity enjoyed by the Tan community at the time of the temple’s construction. Wooden carvings and granite pillars were imported from China.12

In the 1990s, the Tan Sze Chong Su (Tan Association) funded extensive restoration work on the temple.13

Variant names
The temple is known by at least a dozen names, including Tan Si Chong Su, Bao Chi Gong,14 Bo Chiak Kung,15 Po Chek Kiong16 and Po Chiak Keng.17

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1996), 137–9. (Call no. RSING 725.94095957 LIU)
2. Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Dhoraisingam S Samuel, 2010), 302–3. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
3. Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9.
4. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore) and Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore, Tan Si Chong Su Temple Preservation Guidelines, vol. 1 (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1992), 4–5. (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 TAN)
5. Sit yin Fong, “$2 M Makeover for Tan Clan Temple,” Straits Times, 23 April 1994, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9.
7. Sit, “$2 M Makeover for Tan Clan Temple.”
8. Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9.
9. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore) and Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore, Tan Si Chong Su Temple Preservation Guidelines, 4–5.
10. Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9.
11. Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9.
12. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 302–3; Lee Geok Boi, The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of Our Forefathers (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2002), 18–21 (Call no. RSING 726.095957 LEE); Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9; Evelyn Lip, Chinese Temple Architecture in Singapore (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1983), 36–41 (Call no. RSING 726.1951095957 LIP); Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore) and Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore, Tan Si Chong Su Temple Preservation Guidelines, 4–5.
13. Sit, “$2 M Makeover for Tan Clan Temple.”
14. Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 137–9.
15. Lip, Chinese Temple Architecture in Singapore, 36–41.
16. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage, 302–3.
17. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore) and Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore, Tan Si Chong Su Temple Preservation Guidelines, 4–5.

The information in this article is valid as of August 2021 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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