Legends of our Turtle Island

There are marvelous sea legends associated with Kusu Island. Most revolve around tales of a miraculous rescue from disaster at sea, a giant turtle and the friendship of two men, one Malay and the other Chinese.

Some of the stories listed in the Singapore infopedia website of the National Library include these:

Legend has it that during the 9th lunar month in the Chinese calendar, a huge turtle saved a group of sailors from rough seas by turning itself into an island. The grateful sailors returned there the following year to make offerings of thanksgiving and the island has thereafter been treated as sacrosanct and has become a place of worship. (Prior to reclamation, it is said that Kusu Island resembled a sea turtle.)

Another tale is of an Arab named Syed Abdul Rahman who left Singapore with his wife and daughter on a journey in search of peace. Caught in a violent storm their sampan capsized. Lost in the open sea, a giant tortoise spotted them and brought them back to safety. They were beached at an unknown island which, from a distance, bore the silhouette of a turtle. Beside them, they found not only their lost sampan but food in it.

A traditional tale includes that of a sailing boat that foundered near Kusu Island and went down in strong waves. Two survivors, a Chinese and a Malay, swam ashore. Stranded on the island, they lived on shrubs and wild shoots. Their good friendship lasted until they died. Years later, when a ship contaminated by an epidemic dropped anchor near the island, the scourge miraculously disappeared and the sick regained good health.

About 170 years ago, two holy men, Dato Syed Rahman, an Arab, and Yam a Chinese, meditated and fasted on their pilgrimage to Kusu. Yam fell ill and Syed prayed fervently for him. The sudden appearance of a boat with food and water saved both their lives. As time lapsed, the two men regularly visited Kusu to offer thanksgiving. When they died, they were buried next to one another on the island. Later the Tua Peh Kong Temple and the Malay shrine were erected and dedicated to their memory.

Turtle Island

Kusu means "Tortoise Island" in Chinese. And turtles are a major a feature at the Kusu Island temple, with turtle icons everywhere.
There are also sculptures of land tortoises (oops).
And a small pond of 'released' land tortoises and freshwater turtles, which unfortunately is a rather sad sight.
In the large brackish water pond next to the temple, one or two sea turtles were seen in the past.

Unfortunately, the temple people are not very marine-friendly. On a trip this month, volunteers encountered large fish traps laid out on the Kusu shore by the temple residents.

More about Kusu Island


Lam-Ang said...

This definitely helped a lot in my current project. Thanks.

ria tan said...

Glad to hear that! Thanks for letting us know.