Religion

Singapore’s historic sites of worship

Communities in a changing city

by Pei Ying Loh, Chua Ai Lin, Lynn Wong, Fauzy Ismail & Singapore Heritage Society

Places of worship are never simply places to practice one’s faith in—they are also social anchors for the communities around them.

What are these buildings and how are they protected?
#1 Historic places of worship are special even among heritage sites and general sites of worship.
#2 Historic places of worship receive different levels of recognition and protection.

Illustrations by design studio Crop.sg.

People and community
#3 These sites of worship exist in a web of connections, locally and transnationally.

A man prays in front of Habib Noh’s keramat.

#4 Historical sites of worship are expected to be popular—but not everyone wants to be so.
Change & Continuity
#5 Historic sites of worship are anchors in a constantly changing landscape. Coexisting alongside modern developments, they are powerful testaments to the passage of time.

The Seng Wong Beo temple was constructed in 1905 to serve the spiritual needs of coolies living in the area. Today, Seng Wong Beo remains an important aspect of the busy modern day landscape of Tanjong Pagar, continuing to serve the same purpose it did more than a hundred years ago. The temple celebrates numerous festivals every year, and continues to be popular among worshippers who seek blessings for safe travels, good health, a smooth sailing career, and even fertility.

#6 Sites of worship deal with rapid urban change in their own ways.
The future of these sites of worship
Disclaimer: Our stories have been researched and fact-checked to the best of our abilities. Should you spot mistakes, inaccuracies, or have queries about our sources, please drop us an e-mail at hello@kontinentalist.com
Pei Ying Loh / Head and Co-Founder

Pei Ying wears many hats in Kontinentalist. She leads the company in achieving its overall business and editorial goals, making strategic business development plans, and managing partnerships. Her background and passion for history is the driving force behind many of her stories, which delve into cultural and historical contexts. In her free time, she is likely tending to her veggie garden, cooking, or cuddling her two fat cats.

This story is written in collaboration with
Chua Ai Lin

Chua Ai Lin is the Executive Director of the Singapore Heritage Society and formerly an Asst Prof in the NUS Dept of History. She has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge specialising in social and cultural history in colonial Singapore.

Lynn Wong

Lynn Wong is an independent researcher and filmmaker on a race against time to document and revive disappearing foods, festivals, and heritage in Singapore. She is also the co-investigator for the Singapore Heritage Society’s two-year research project on historic places of worship on Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar, and Tanjong Malang.

Fauzy Ismail

Fauzy Ismail is a trained architect who has worked in the local arts field and the European fashion industry. Currently, he is a freelance researcher working in history, culture, and conservation. He is an avid volunteer for the Singapore Heritage Society and a strong supporter of heritage.

Singapore Heritage Society

Founded in 1987 as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, SHS is an independent voice for heritage conservation in Singapore. Our work is guided by our definition of heritage as ‘the living presence of the past’. Singapore’s history is a vital part of our identity and growth. Social bonds are strengthened when we understand and cherish the social memories of past and present generations in the spaces we protect. These beliefs drive our key efforts in research, public education and advocacy. 

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