Skyscrapers, traffic, bustling marketplaces and bright nighttime lights; Kuala Lumpur never stops, and it can get a little overwhelming after a while. But drive 20 minutes out of the city and you can find a little place of serenity to recharge your batteries. Thean Hou Temple, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, sits atop a hill overlooking the city, and offers a space of peace and serenity, and a moment to breathe in an unrelenting city.
One would be forgiven for thinking that Thean Hou Temple has been around for centuries, but it was in fact only completed in 1987 after 6 years of construction by the Hainanese people living in Malaysia. It has six tiers, and altars to three goddesses – Mazu (also known as Tian Hou, the temple’s namesake and the sea goddess), Guanyin (associated with compassion and known as the “Goddess of Mercy” in English), and Shui Wei Sheng Niang (the Hainan “Goddess of the Waterfront”).
When I visited, the temple was all decked out in red, the colour of prosperity and good fortune, ready for the upcoming Chinese New Year. This included strings of bright red lanterns across the 4th level courtyard, creating a beautiful canopy of colour. Visiting on a Monday afternoon meant that the temple was not busy, but you could find families, individuals and other groups worshipping, walking around, or simply appreciating the space.
On entering the temple grounds, a statue and fountain of Mazu greets you, and situated just next door is a garden of the Chinese zodiac animals. On the bottom floor is a collection of souvenir shops, a small food court and the marriage registration office. I bought myself a small token to remember the place by – a red hanging decoration of my zodiac animal, the dog. Two floors up is a multi-purpose hall, where on this day a group of fan dancers were practicing for a performance, most likely for the upcoming New Year celebrations.
One floor up, on the fourth floor, is where you can find the courtyard and prayer hall. Shoes are removed at the steps leading up to the prayer hall, and a small donation is given to receive the incense sticks used for worship. Around the side of the prayer hall is another, small altar to Mazu, where worshippers line up to pray individually. Climb the stairs and from the balcony you can look down on the courtyard, or over the temple to see the modern skyline of Kuala Lumpur protruding in the distance. Turn around, and the final level of the temple greets you, looming high and adorned with intricate traditional decorations and detailing, and also decorated at my time of visit with red lanterns.
We spent around an hour or two at Thean Hou Temple. It was easy to walk around, appreciating the beauty of the place, and sitting on a bench people watching. I do not worship, but it was nice in itself to watch others praying, for their loved ones, for health, fortune and prosperity for the coming year.
To get to the temple, we took a GrabCar – Southeast Asia’s version of Uber – costing us just 9RM, or just less than £2. It’s completely free to visit, but you can leave a monetary donation if you wish. Open every day 09:00 – 18:00, the temple is located just off Jalan Syed Putra and up a small hill, but the taxi can take you straight to the entrance, so there’s no need to worry about taking your climbing shoes! It’s the perfect thing to do if you need a little rest from the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur. Take the time to just sit and appreciate the calm of the location before heading back into the throng of the city.
For more information on the temple and the events held there, you can visit the website for The Selangor & Federal Territory Hainan Association.
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