Thean Hou Temple is the heart of Chinese New Year’s celebrations in Kuala Lumpur.
By Deborah Tobin
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – February 8, 2016
The Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur is expecting 350,000 devotees and visitors over the 15-day celebration of the Spring Festival which started on Monday, the first day of the lunar New Year. Over 40 percent of the population in Kuala Lumpur is Chinese, and while many of the city’s Chinese citizens will be traveling to family reunions in hometowns, many others will be celebrating with family and friends in K.L.
Thean Hou Temple is the heart of the celebrations and according to temple senior staff member Ho Yoke Mui “we are expecting over 20,000 visitors today, which is the first day of the year. It is very important to Chinese people to begin the year as they wish it to go on. We will pray for happiness and wealth, and offer gifts to the gods. And of course, because we are Chinese people, we will eat and talk and enjoy our family and friends.”
Mid-morning, the temple was tranquil and relaxed as families made their way through a series of prayer rituals. Temple visitors lit incense and candles, collected gold ingots and other trinkets associated with wealth and lined up to be splashed with sacred water by saffron-robed monks.
A small handful of tourists stayed respectfully in the background, grateful to witness the culturally authentic occasion. Everyone was thankful for the hill-top breezes on the typically blistering K.L. day.
The temple sits high above the city on top of verdant Robson Hill. Thousands of red lanterns were strung along the building and across tree tops on the surrounding hillside. The K.L. skyline provided the backdrop and the sun bounced off the trademark twin towers in the distance
All at once the serenity was shattered by the crash of cymbals and the tribal backbeat of 10 Chinese drums. A golden lion leapt into the central courtyard and devotions were momentarily abandoned in favour of some holiday frivolity. The crowd surged forward to earn a bit luck for the year ahead by touching the lion as it wove through the crowd. The downy soft and gaudily accessorized monster spit out candy, to the delight of those children brave enough to reach a tiny hand into the huge mouth. The less brave hid behind their parents.
Thean Hou was built by the Hainanese Chinese community in Kuala Lumpur and was officially opened in September 1989. Robert Chow was one of the architects who designed the building. “I traveled extensively through Asia, studying the design of many temples. In the end, we decided on a ship design to honour the relationship of the Hainan people with the sea. Thean Hou is worshipped as a sea goddess, and she watches over the people who come here to pray.”
Chow’s son Simon was visiting the temple with his parents, wife and children. “It’s part of tradition that we come here every year on the first day of the New Year. We come to give thanks. You see a lot of people praying for a better life, a better future, for wealth and prosperity and happiness. It’s the normal cycle.”
Thean Hou temple is one of the largest Chinese temples in Southeast Asia and represents the beliefs of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.