The renovations to the collapsed roof at the 214-year old Kong Hock Keong, popularly known as the Kuan Im Temple, are almost fully completed but the temple trustees have already opened up Penang's oldest Chinese temple in Pitt Street, George Town, to the general public even as restoration work is still continuing.
The main entrance into the Kong Hock Keong.
The main hall of the Kuan Im Temple. No joss sticks, no urns, no devotees praying.
The interior of the Kong Hock Keong is sparklingly clean. The old roof beams have been replaced and new tiles line the roof tops. The deities have all been given fresh coats of paint and new capes. They look new but of course, I know that many of them are more than a hundred years old. Some, to my understanding, may even be closer to two hundred years.
The inner hall of the Kuan Im Temple.
A more significant change is that the temple authorities have now disallowed worshippers from burning joss sticks and paper within the temple premises. However, it was uncertain to me whether anyone could bring in their lit joss sticks into the building. The short time that I was at the Kong Hock Keong, nobody did.
Yes, "thank you," indeed. :-)
So where could people actually kneel down to pray? As far as I could make out, the temple authorities had placed two long rows of a low platform on the ground between the lion guardians. (You can also see them in the first picture.) People are requested to kneel here, I suppose, unshaded from the elements, whether it be the hot sun or the wet rain.
I didn't see anyone kneeling down under the hot sun! Would you?
All the old brass urns have been replaced with aluminium or stainless steel ones, and these are lined up in the open forecourt facing the entrance. A metal shelter has been erected there but I wonder whether or not this is going to be a permanent feature. The structure is definitely incongruent with the heritage status of the temple. It is ill fitting, out of place amidst our history and culture. Can be better designed. The temple trustees should consider alternatives. Public opinion is important. Practicality is also important.
The modern urns in the front courtyard