The History of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

In 1989, Venerable Shi Fa Zhao founded the Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple at 798 Tampines Road (now 83, Tampines Link). This simple 2-storey and 1-basement building, incorporated both traditional and modern design elements, with unique Mahayana, Theravada and Vajayana artifacts. The Ground breaking and blessing ceremony was held on 11 March 1990, led by Elder Ven. Guang Qia, Abbot of Long San Temple. The laying of the Foundation stone was by Mr Zhuang Rexi. The new temple building was completed in 1992, the precursor to BTRTM. The Temple was consecrated on 6 February 1992 and officially opened on 19 September 1992 by Mr Chew Heng Ching, Member of Parliament for Eunos GRC.


In early 1997, Ven. Shi Fa Zhao was approached by Singapore Tourism Board to develop a proposal for a temple at Sago Lane, on half of the vacant site. Given the short notice, a draft proposal was submitted 4 days later for the Golden Mandala Buddhist Temple, based on the principles of the Buddhist mandala and taking into account the needs of tourists visiting the temple. As space was a constraint, the building would have a modern, high-rise design and numerous facilities. This proposal was not developed further.


Subsequently in early 1998, we were again approached by Singapore Tourism Board to develop a traditional Chinese temple and opera stage for the entire Sago Lane vacant site, so as to blend into the Chinatown landscape. By April 1998, we submitted a comprehensive proposal, with detailed architectural plans for the Gajah Ratna Buddhist Temple. This proposal included various facilities, activities and events to be organized for both locals and tourists.


As covered in the earlier section, on 4 August 2002, Ven. Cakkapala decided to hand over the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic to Ven. Shi Fa Zhao. He exhorted the new guardian that, should the opportunity arise, he should build a monastery for the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic, so that Buddhists from everywhere may gather in Singapore to venerate this. Having been so urged by Ven. Cakkapala, Ven. Shi Fa Zhao found himself being tested.


To get things started, he resolved to be secluded in a one-year Dharma Lotus Blossom Retreat.


Thanks to blessings from the Triple Gems, Ven. Shi Fa Zhao conceived during the retreat not only the name “Buddha Relic Tooth Temple (Singapore)”, but also an architectural style based on the Buddhist mandala and integrated with the arts and culture of Buddhism during the Tang dynasty period. (Note: For more information about the Temple Design Concepts, please visit Temple Design Concepts & Challenges)


With the gift of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic and the success of the 2002 Suntec City exhibition, it was clear that the Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple would be inadequate to exhibit the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic for public veneration. Thus, Ven. Shi Fa Zhao was very determined to secure the vacant Sago Lane site for the new temple and we began to plan in earnest.


The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (Singapore), BTRTS, was registered with the Registrar of Societies on 20 February 2003 and by the Commissioner of Charities on 8 January 2004.


The first preliminary proposal for the new temple was submitted to Singapore Tourism Board on 1 April 2003, incorporating detailed architectural plans; programmes and services; events and fund raising proposals. We also commenced numerous presentations and dialogues with various government authorities and grassroots organizations.


The second exhibition of the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic was organized at Singapore Expo, Halls 2 to 5, from 19 to 23 May 2004, entitled, “Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic & 500 Arhats - Enchanting Buddhist Treasures”. We introduced to the public and exhibited a model of the temple building, as well as many of the design plans. Fund raising for the temple building fund was thus launched.


An exhibition room was created to showcase and exhibit our plans, proposed activities and events, for the various government agencies and our donors.


By October 2004, we had commenced testing of the soil conditions at the site, so as to finalise the structural and construction methods and design technical details. (Note: For more information about the History of Temple Designs, please visit History of Temple Designs)


A temporary office was leased at 293, South Bridge Road in November 2004 to house our temple showroom and office. A warehouse at Loyang was rented to hold our collection of museum artifacts and building materials.


The final proposal for the BTRTS was submitted to Singapore Tourism Board in December 2004. This was followed by preparation of various legal documents and final approvals from various government authorities.


From 2 to 5 December, Ven. Shi Fa Zhao set up a grand Liang Emperor Altar for a Ground Blessing Ceremony to prepare the site and to inform the Chinatown community about the impending commencement of construction works.


The Land Lease Signing Ceremony was held on 14 January 2005 between representatives of Singapore Tourism Board and BTRTS Trustees, witnessed by the Sangha, bank officials, legal counsel and Management Committee members. This marks the official transfer of the site for the commencement of construction.


In celebration of Chinese New Year, a temporary temple mountain gate and perimeter wall was built at the site.


Various fund-raising and exhibition activities were held in the marquee tent from 15 January to 10 February 2005. Our fund raising brochure was launched. These lasted for more than 3 weeks, bringing the Temple closer to launch.


In March, the main construction was awarded to Sato Kogyo (S) Pte. Ltd, along with other nominated contractors and suppliers. The consultant team went into full gear to lead the construction team.

The Ground Breaking Ceremony was held on 13 March 2005 at the site. The event was officiated by Mr Chan Soo Seng, then Minister of State for Education, and attended by large numbers of Sangha and well wishers from China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and Bhutan. 108 dignitaries helped to break the ground with Singapore ‘changkols’! Besides our numerous donors, we also had a large Myanmar group in attendance.


The main contractor, Sato Kogyo took over the site on 15 April 2005 and actual construction commenced with the drilling of the diaphragm wall on 15 May 2005. (Note: For more information about the Temple Construction, please visit Temple Construction)


To reduce the construction time, a simultaneous “Top-Down” method was used.


With the construction well in progress, we had to cease the fund raising activities previously conducted at the site. Fortunately, we were able to secure a temporary lease of the next field from January to August 2006. This allowed us to develop and plan for the various Buddhist ceremonies and activities, familiarize our new staff, as well as to showcase our building plans for fund raising.

By May 2006, the structural works had reached the roof level. A Topping-Up Ceremony was held on 5 June 2006 to mark this important milestone. The Guest of Honor was Singapore Tourism Board’s Deputy Chairman and CEO, Mr Lim Neo Chian. It was a moment of great satisfaction and pride.


Originally, the TOP was targeted for January 2007, however due to difficult soil conditions at basement 3 and other construction related problems; we finally got the requisite approvals in April 2007. A series of blessing and consecration ceremonies were conducted as we prepared for the opening of the temple.


We also conducted numerous orientation tours for the various government authorities, grassroots organizations, tourism trade agencies, donors, volunteers and staff. We also distributed goody bags to the neighbourhood residents, organisations and shops to apologise for the expected congestion.


The Grand Official Opening Ceremony was held on Vesak Day eve evening, 30 May 2007, with President S R Nathan as our Guest of Honor. There were many local and overseas Sangha and guests. This was also held in conjunction with our first Vesak Festival Parade and carnival.


The Grand Consecration Ceremony was held on May 2008 and


The Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic was finally placed at its exquisite Chinatown home for the veneration by all Buddhists; showcasing our Buddhist culture and Chinatown heritage to all the overseas visitors to Singapore.


Bibliography

  1. Burma’s Lost Kingdoms, Splendours of Arakan, Pamela Gutman, Orchid Press, 2001, ISBN 974-8304-98-1, pages 6 – 7, 73 – 77

新加坡佛牙寺龙华院简史

释法照大和尚于1989年在淡滨尼路门牌798号(现在的淡滨泥路门牌86号)创立了护国金塔寺。那是一栋外观简朴拥有两层楼和一个地下室停车场的建筑物,它的设计构思不但结合了传统和现代风格,也同时吸收了北传、南传和藏传的佛教特色。就在1990年3月11日由龙山寺当时的住持上广下洽长老主持动土仪式,奠基仪式则是由庄日旭先生主持。这栋新寺庙于1992年竣工,并在同年2月6日举行开光仪式,接着于1992年9月19日由当时友喏士集选区的国会议员周亨增先生主持开幕仪式。


在1997年初,释法照大和尚在新加坡旅游局邀请下为沙娥巷的半幅地段策划一栋寺院。由于时间紧凑,只用了四天的时间来完成金曼陀罗佛寺的粗劣草图,它主要是根据佛教曼陀罗的概念,同时要考虑到配合旅客参观的条件。由于受到空间限制,建筑的规划必须现代化,高楼设计并加入一些其他的设施。这项计划并最终没有得到进一步发展。


接下来在1998年初,我们再次接受新加坡旅游局的邀请,为沙娥巷的一整幅地段设计发展一栋传统寺院与一个表演舞台,这是为了要融入整个牛车水的景观。就在1998年4月,我们呈交一份周详的计划书和一份详尽的Gajah Ratna寺院的建筑蓝图。这份计划书还包括为海内外游客所安排的各种设施、活动和项目。


上一节我们提到,在2002年8月4日当务舍葛帕喇大和尚决定把佛牙舍利送交给法照大和尚时,他便告诫新监护人说只要有机会,就应该为这枚佛牙舍利子建造一栋寺院,从而能让全世界各地的佛教徒都有机会集聚到新加坡来瞻仰这颗舍利子。务舍葛帕喇大和尚的嘱咐便成为法照大和尚的一大考验。


作为事情的开始,法照大和尚下决心先展开为期一年的闭关来修妙法莲花经。


感恩三宝的加持,法照大和尚在闭关期间得到佛陀感应,不但把未来寺庙命名为“新加坡佛牙寺”同时参悟到新寺院的设计风格将结合佛教曼陀罗和中国唐朝的佛教艺术文化格式。(注:有关寺庙设计概念请参阅网上部分:Temple Design Concepts & Challenges


随着2002年在新达城展览中心所主办的佛牙舍利展得到的空前的成功,我们了解到护国金塔寺将不足以用来展示和让世人朝拜供养这颗佛牙舍利,释法照大和尚因此下定决心要在沙娥巷的一块空地建筑一栋新寺院,并开始认真思考它的设计。


新加坡佛牙寺龙华院在2003年2月20日向社团注册局注册,跟着在2004年1月8日向慈善总监注册和2004年1月8日向慈善总监注册。


第一份新寺院的草拟计划书是在2003年4月呈交到新加坡旅游局,内容包含了建筑设计蓝图、程序和设施;项目与筹款计划。我们也开始向多个政府机构和基层组织展示我们的计划和对话会。


第二次的佛牙舍利展是在新加坡展览中心第二至第五展览厅举办,从2004年5月19日至23日,命名为“神圣佛牙舍利和五百罗汉—引人入胜的佛教宝藏”。我们向大众展示了寺院的模型和许多设计蓝图。建筑新寺院的筹款活动也同时展开。


其中一个展览厅专门为各个政府机构和我们的赞助人所设,展示我们寺庙的设计蓝图、活动的计划和项目。


到了2004年10月,我们开始在工地上进行土壤质量的测试,从而敲定建筑结构设计和策划建筑方法等等的技术细节。(注:有关寺庙设计背景请参阅网上部分:History of Temple Designs


在2003年11月我们在桥北路门牌293号租下一间店屋,它是作为临时办事处和寺院展示厅。我们也在洛阳区租下一间栈房用来储藏我们佛教博物馆的文物收藏品及建筑材料。


2004年12月我们向新加坡旅游局呈交最后的佛牙寺计划书。接着准备各项法律文件和多个政府部门的最后批准公函。


从12月2日至5日,释法照大和尚设立梁皇法坛作为动土仪式以便准备开工,同时可以向牛车水社区宣布建筑工程即将展开。


土地租用的签约仪式在2005年1月14日进行,由新加坡旅游局和佛牙寺信托的双方代表在法师、银行职员、律师以及管委会委员们的见证下举行。这是象征场地的正式的移交和展开工程。


为了庆祝农历新年,在工地上搭建了一个临时的山门和寺庙围墙。


好几项筹款活动和展览陆陆续续地从一月15日至2月10日在临时帐篷内分别展开。我们也分发筹款传单,在这三个星期所展开的活动促使寺院工程可以更顺利的展开。


就在3月份我们把建筑工程授予总承包商Sato Kogyo (S) Pte. Ltd。接着也陆续授权于其他附属承包商与供应商们。建筑顾问团队也同时全面展开以便领导建筑工程的开展。

动土仪式在2005年3月13日在工地进行。这项仪式是由当时的教育部政务部长曾仕生先生主持,参与盛会的有大批法师和嘉宾分别来自中国、缅甸、实里兰卡、泰国、马来西亚、印度尼西亚、韩国和不丹等国。由108位重量级人物同时提起锄头进行动土仪式。除了我们的赞助信众外还有大批来自缅甸的嘉宾在一旁共同见证整个仪式。


总建筑承包商 Sato Kogyo在2005年4月正式接管了工地,并在同年5月15日展开挖掘地下连续墙的工程。(注:有关寺庙建筑工程请参阅网上部分:Temple Construction


为了缩短工程的时间,我们采用了“由上而下”的建筑法。


随着工程顺利的进行,我们必须停止先前在工地展开的所有筹款活动。很幸运地,我们从2006年1月到6月暂时租到隔邻的一块空草地,这便让我们发展和策划一系列的佛教仪式和活动,也让我们的新员工得到实践的机会,同时展示我们的建筑设计图作为筹款的活动。

来到2006年5月,工程顺利完成了楼顶的建筑。盖顶仪式便在2006年6月5日举行,这标志着一个重要的里程碑。大会特别贵宾是新加坡旅游局副主席兼总裁林梁长先生,那一刻大家都感到非常的满意和骄傲。


按照原本计划,临时入伙准证是预订在2007年一月,然而,由于建造深入地下三层的地下室的工程遇到超出预测的松软土质,以及其他建筑相关的难题,我们终于在2007年4月才获得相关的准证。接下来便着手为寺院的开幕准备一系列的祝福和开光仪式。


我们也多次引导各个政府部门的官员、基层组织、旅游社代理、赞助人、义工和员工们参观旅游寺院和讲解。我们也分发纪念礼包给予左邻右舍、集团组织和商店店主作为对他们造成不便的歉意。


在2007年5月30日,也即是卫塞节前夕举办了庄严的开幕仪式,座上特别嘉宾是我国总统纳丹先生。 许多海内外法师和嘉宾莅临参与盛会,同时我们也举办第一次的卫塞节游行和嘉年华会。


庄严肃穆的开光仪式在2008年5月进行。


佛陀舍利终于落户在牛车水那美轮美奂的新家让所有佛教徒们瞻仰和朝拜,它也向到新加坡的海外游客展示了佛教文化和牛车水的传统遗产。


参考书目

  1. Burma’s Lost Kingdoms, Splendours of Arakan, Pamela Gutman, Orchid Press, 2001, ISBN 974-8304-98-1, pages 6 – 7, 73 – 77