Divine Custody: A History of Singapore's Oldest Teochew Temple

Divine Custody: A History of Singapore's Oldest Teochew Temple
"Masterful! Not only has Professor Yeo Kang Shua described the history and conservation of Singapore’s oldest Teochew temple he has provided a textbook in conservation methodology with application far beyond that of a single—though enormously significant—heritage site." - William Chapman, Dean, School of Architecture, The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

"This beautiful book captures the history of the earliest Teochew temple in Singapore as a site of power and a centre of community activities. It is also a masterly account of architectural conservation and restoration. The author is to be commended for giving us such a wide range of aesthetic pleasure." - Wang Gungwu, National University of Singapore

Teochew-speaking gambier and pepper farmers were early settlers of Singapore at the turn of the 19th century. Wak Hai Cheng Bio, now surrounded by the skyscrapers of Singapore's central business district, traces its history back to the earliest days of the colony. No written sources or inscriptions commemorate the founding of the temple, but the author's research in the history of land tenure of Singapore and old maps and title deeds provide new evidence for the temple's foundation.

Just as eloquent as these forms of textual evidence, and the many poetic and commemorative inscriptions that enliven the temple and charge its spaces with meaning, is the testimony of the building itself, its siting, materials, its ornamentation and artworks. The author led the UNESCO award-winning effort to restore the temple from 2010 to 2014, and so is uniquely placed to understand what its architecture can tell us of the legacies and histories of the communities that formed and were formed by the temple. The book is exemplary in the way it uses material culture and architectural history as historical sources.


Yeo Kang Shua


NUS Press



Publication date

1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021




Art and Culture