Kusu Island: isle of shrines

A microcosm of multi-cultural Singapore, Kusu Island has an enchanting blend of religious significances. Kusu Island today remains the destination of an annual pilgrimage of up to 100,000 people! There is both a Chinese temple and Malay shrines on the island.

The most engaging description of the shrines of Kusu Island is found on infopedia of the National Library website.

"Every year, on the 9th day of the 9th moon in the Chinese calendar, a month-long festival stretching between September to November see more than 100,000 devout Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian pilgrims visit Kusu Island.

The island houses a Chinese temple and three Malay Keramats.

The Chinese temple was built by contributions from a Chia Cheng Ho in 1923 who initiated the worship of Tua Peh Kong (earlier known as Da Bo Gong), the "Merchant God" or "God of Prosperity". Guan Yin, the "Goddess of Mercy" and the "Giver of Sons" is also prayed to there.

At least, 80% of the devotees are women, many praying for good husbands, healthy babies and obedient children. At least five blessings are sought for: longevity, wealth, tranquility, love of virtue and a fulfilled destiny.

Devotees also climb the 152 steps to reach the Malay shrines. One of the shrines is dedicated to Syed Abdul Rahman, whilst the other two are believed to belong to his mother, Nenek Ghalib and his sister, Puteri Fatimah Shariffah. The shrines are watched over daily by Pak Ali, who tends to the Keramat Datok Kong and Haji Shamsudin who tends to the Keramat Datok Mother and Keramat Datok Daughter, as they are named.

Placards next to the later two Keramat seem to indicate that Nenek Ghalib had visited a Baba Hoe Beng Huat and garnered finances to build these shrines from this group of Peranakans some time in 1917."

A sign near the Chinese Temple also reveals these details ...

The popular cult of Da Bo Gong (The Merchange God or God of Prosperity) found its fruition on Kusu in 1923, when a wealthy businessman, identified on a stone slab as Chia Cheng Ho, donated money for the building of the temple in honour of the Merchant God.

The Chinese Temple houses many deities, but the two main deities are the Da Bo Gong and Guan Yin.

Da Bo Gong is highly regarded as having the power to confer prosperity, cure disease, calm the sea and avert danger. Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) is surnamed Sung-Tzu-Niang-Niang and also known as the 'Giver of Sons".

In their prayers, devotees usually request for five blessings from the Gods, namely: Longevity, Wealth, Tranquility (Health of body as well as peace of mind), Love of Virtue and Fulfilled Destiny.

According to the Sentosa website, the Malays shrines are also popular with childless couples who would pray for children.

It is said that petitioners will tie a ribbon on trees near the shrine. And indeed the trees near the bright yellow shrine are festooned with ribbons.The annual pilgrimage accounts for this strange sight on the island!
The area is totally empty of course, except during the pilgrimage season, when the island is truly bustling with people.

In the past, the temple of Kusu Island was on the water! As shown in the photo below...
In the next article, more about the history of Kusu Island.

More about Kusu Island

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