Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow
  1. NCK says:

    I assume this was a pre-war postcard. A recent study by UTAR found that seven out of Ipoh’s 42 cave temples were built before WWII. The seven temples are, namely Nam To Ngam, Perak Tong, Loong Thow Ngam Tao, Sam Poh Tong, Nam Thean Tong, Kong Fook Ngam (the oldest, built in 1890), and Tung Wah Tong. (The Star Metro article dated 9th January 2017 refers.)

    The temple in the postcard was a Taoist temple as evident in the calligraphy on the columns and boards. This rules out Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong, Kong Fook Ngam, and Tung Wah Tong which are Buddhist temples, and reduces the number of candidates to three: Nam To Ngam, Loong Thow Ngam Tao, and Nam Thean Tong.

    A book on the study will be published. It will have Mandarin and English versions. Buy one if you are interested.

    • NCK says:

      Sorry. The article says, “The book will be around 200 pages in Chinese, but there will be English translation for the abstract pages.”

    • felicia says:

      Hello NCK. Yes, it is pre-war….our archives state the date as 1915.
      I’ve not come across this book you’ve mentioned, but shall keep an eye out for it.

  2. Ngai C O says:

    Hi,

    When we talk about cave temples, we generally refer to the the Chinese ones. That I believe is very stereotypical. Apart from Batu Caves, none of the other Indian ones are usually mentioned. I believe there are Thai ones as well.

    Well, I myself strangely took that view as well.

    There are plenty around Ipoh. I counted three at the limestone outcrop adjacent to Jalan Perajurit in Ipoh Garden East. One definitely was a recent addition.

    Years ago, my late wife was involved as a member for a short while in an obscure one off the road leading to Tanjung Rambutan. It was probably influenced by her mother. The committee head used the temple and its activities to try to increase attendance and visitor numbers for whatever reasons that I could never work out. I was very skeptical of his motives as he was very evasive in what he was trying to achieve.

    As a kid, I had friends whose relatives were caretakers of Sam Poh Tong. I used to spend quite a bit of time there. They used to grow lots of bonsai and did a really good job of it.

    As for the study of cave temples, I think it is important to throw the net wider, be more inclusive and bring on board Indian ones as well rather than taking a myopic view.

    • felicia says:

      You brought up an interesting point, Ngai.
      Even in our collection, we’ve come across many photos and postcards of Chinese cave temples. Photos of Hindu temples are few and far between…..

  3. Chew weng huat says:

    This is the temple inside the Gunung Cheroh Limestone Hill near the Sungai Kinta Kalumalai Indian Temple. It is located off Anderson Road (now Jalan Rajah MusavAziz), opposite the DR Seenivasagam Park in Ipoh.

    The name ot the deity being worshipped here is written big on the front horizontal banner: 太上老君 aka 老子. So it is 太上老君庙 .

    • NCK says:

      I see. You mean the Taoist temple next to the Kallumalai Arulmigu Subramaniyar Temple. This Taoist temple isn’t marked on Google Map but it can be seen in Google street view.

      The postcard was prewar as testified by the FMS tiger stamps on the postcard, dated 1915 to be exact as Felicia has revealed. Unless the UTAR people have erred in their study, this temple wasn’t built before WWII.

      I suppose the honorific for Laozi (or Lao Tzu) is used in all Taoist temples. Have you been to the temple and found the same features that are shown in the postcard?

    • NCK says:

      My bad. I just realised, this Taoist cave temple is none other than Nam To Ngam Temple (南道巖/岩). In fact, IpohWorld have a few entries on this temple in their database, including one with a shot of an interior view that IpohWorld believe to be belonging to this cave temple. That view matches the view in the postcard. Perhaps someone living in Ipoh would go to this temple and take a look inside for verification?

    • NCK says:

      Obviously, I have not been to this temple (that’s in G. Cheroh, next to the Hindu temple). I didn’t even know its name, for this modest temple has no big signboard that cries out its name to every passerby like the other, more flamboyant temples do.

  4. Ngai C O says:

    Hi felicia,

    This proposed TAR initiated book was reported in the STAR. After NCK mentioned it, I did a google search.

    It is very disturbing to me that we still follow clear racial paths in most things that we set out to do.

    It is time academics ought to break the ice and take the initiative in making baby steps to foster better relationships rather than wait for festivals to demonstrate our co existence.

    What better opportunity than now without the baggage of politics.

    • NCK says:

      Well, the article in The Star Metro says that 35 of the 42 cave temples are Chinese temples. This means 7 are non-Chinese.

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear Well, the article in The Star Metro says that 35 of the 42 cave temples are Chinese temples. This means 7 are non-Chinese.

        Where do you find that statement in the article you mentioned?

        Perhaps I was looking at the wrong article, but here’s what I did find:

        A BOOK featuring the historic cave temples in Ipoh established before World War II will be available in July. Although 42 short-listed cave temples appear in the book, only seven temples founded before the Second World War will be emphasised.

        From these statements alone, we don’t know how many cave temples they found in the Ipoh area, nor how many of that total are Chinese, nor how many of that total were founded before WWII.

        Later in the article it says that “the seven temples featured in the book have the most significant historical value.” Since all seven of these temples are named in the article, we know that they are all Chinese.

  5. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear NCK

    A recent study by UTAR […] (The Star Metro article dated 9th January 2017 refers.)

    Thanks for the pointer. I looked for the study but it is apparently not (yet?) available. The funding period runs through at least September 2017, so perhaps they are not quite ready to publish.

    Ngai C O adds:

    It is very disturbing to me that we still follow clear racial paths in most things that we set out to do.

    UTAR has a Centre for Chinese Studies (and an Institute for Chinese Studies, perhaps the same thing but both names are used). The web-pages published by this Centre (or Institute) are obviously designed only for readers of Chinese.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi,

      I read the Straits Times article again about this book and what the author/s intend to include/exclude. No explanation was given for the rationale.

      Yes, they are Chinese cave temples.

      They exist because these traveled from central Asia to China through history. Everyone of them has an Indian influence of some sort.

      They pray to the same gods but each does have its own peculiar interpretation and therefore influence the devotees’s behaviour accordingly.

      Strange as they seem to me, I tried to be nosy when I was a kid to spy on the monks and nuns to see if any hanky panky went on.

      I am sure there were and are secret activities behind the wall including LGBT and pedophilia.

      • NCK says:

        I think you have read too much into the scandals reported of a religious body in the West. If you are curious about what monks do behind closed doors, you can join them to find out.

  6. Mano says:

    NCK & Ngai CO, perhaps we should stop this stereotyping by first of all not referring to these places of worship as Chinese or Indian temples which is the common practice in M’sia and even in Singapore. I cringe everytime someone wishes ‘all our Indian friends A Happy Deepavali” in the social media. There are Indians who are Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. Similarly, some of my friends of Chinese and Western descent are more Hindu than me!

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Mano,

      Your comments are timely and it is exactly the stereotypes that I was referring to.

      To try to pretend that they do not exist is like burying our heads in the sand.

    • NCK says:

      Mano has made a good point. It is more accurate to say if a temple is Taoist, Buddhist or Hindu. Making race-based references is easier – e.g. Taoist or Buddhist, you are still Chinese. Such practice stems from a lack of understanding of the other races.

  7. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Chew weng huat

    This is the temple inside the Gunung Cheroh Limestone Hill near the Sungai Kinta Kalumalai Indian Temple.

    Thank you for this hint.

    NCK adds:

    The postcard was prewar as testified by the FMS tiger stamps on the postcard, dated 1915 to be exact as Felicia has revealed. Unless the UTAR people have erred in their study, this temple wasn’t built before WWII.

    I have not seen their study, therefore cannot comment on it; but I can say that there was a Buddhist temple at the Gunung Cheroh location more than a century ago. Whether any temple located there today is the same one I cannot say.

    In the old days, monks used to live there in the caves. They collected the water that dripped through and down the cave walls and cherished it for use in their religious ceremonies. In the center of one chamber, they placed a wide-mouthed bottle under a drip from the ceiling: so predictable was this drip that the bottle served the monks as a clock.

    And Ngai C O adds:

    Strange as they seem to me, I tried to be nosy when I was a kid to spy on the monks and nuns to see if any hanky panky went on.

    The UTAR researchers, focusing on those temples that “have the most significant historical value,” mention the Kong Fook Ngam Buddhist temple in Simpang Pulai. What they probably don’t know is what kind of “hanky panky” went on in that particular temple a century ago: the monks were printing counterfeit money in their cave!

  8. Mano says:

    Sometime in the 70′s, the cave temple at Gunung Rapat, I believe the Kek Look Tong, was inundated when a mining bund nearby burst. The main road to KL was closed and the then Sultan of Perak took a personal interest to expedite repairs.
    Perhaps just rumours but I recall hearing during the rescue operations of the temple, nefarious activities were discovered within it’s premises. I think counterfeiting was one of them.

  9. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Mano

    Sometime in the 70′s, the cave temple at Gunung Rapat, I believe the Kek Look Tong, was inundated when a mining bund nearby burst. The main road to KL was closed and the then Sultan of Perak took a personal interest to expedite repairs.

    There’ve been so many of these catastrophes over the decades that they start to meld together in my mind. Even the death-dealing collapse at Gunong Cheroh that many of you recall was not unprecedented: exactly the same thing had happened decades earlier in the same location. At that time the community was asked by the Sanitary Board to vacate the caves but refused; and as you know, and as experts safely predicted, disaster would strike again.

    The same goes for the event you’re talking about. I remember it in particular because of the Sultan’s involvement. It happened in the mid-’70s at the Sam Poh Tong temple. The collapse of the bund brought a deluge. The famous vegetarian restaurant at the temple was covered in six or seven metres of mud; at least five people died, as did tens of thousands of chickens in a neighboring poultry farm.

    And this deadly event, too, was not unprecedented. A bund in the same location had collapsed two decades prior, resulting in a flood that left three people dead in its wake. Two more would have died but the chief priest swam through the muck to rescue them.

  10. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    I did casually comment in another post about the conditions in which mine workers of all levels had to work under because of the lack of Health and Safety Regulations. I think acknowledgement ought to be given to the unfortunate ones. […] I have yet to come across a comprehensive study on the topic.

    Yes, I’ve noticed (and will attend) that you are looking for information on safety enforcement, or the lack thereof, in the tin-mining industry — or perhaps more broadly, on the externalized social cost of all that success that made Ipoh the home of towkays while also sending millions of pounds sterling off to London where it could be kept safe from the unwashed masses who had made its accumulation possible.

    One of the largest externalized costs, of course, was damage to the natural environment, and the consequences thereof.

    On the one side we had the tin mines, where the British, totally unable to compete with Chinese miners who had access to cheap labor, decided instead to use “modern” mining techniques so severely destructive that they had been banned outright even in America, the land of the almighty dollar.

    And on the other side, in various directions adjoining Ipoh, rubber plantations with their orderly rows of trees and carefully cleared forest floors were efficiently coining money for the tuan but they failed miserably at a task previously handled by the virgin forests that the “planters” had destroyed: that of keeping the rain still in the forest and allowing it to soak slowly into the ground. With every downpour over vast expanses of deforested land, the water was forced to wash away quickly off the surface, and wash away it did, into the rivers — except that these were already silted up from the tin mines, thus unable to perform their own natural function. One result: the repeated and infamous flooding which took its toll primarily on people who’d had no say in anything and had never asked for, or profited from, any of the destruction.

    Now many decades later, we might want to believe that the perpetrators were doing the best they could in their time; or that we know better now — but at a recent OECD conference ostensibly on the subject of foreign direct investment and its environmental consequences, one was unsurprised to find that the focus was less on rules and enforcement and more on “voluntary corporate initiatives” — as if it wasn’t precisely a wild excess of “voluntary corporate initiatives” that got us into the mess we’re in now, the mess we’re leaving helplessly for our grand-children and their grand-children to choke on.

    “We destroy the beauty of the countryside because the unappropriated splendors of nature have no economic value. We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend.”

    That was Maynard Keynes writing in 1933.

  11. Ngai C O says:

    Hi Ipoh Remembered,

    To put it simply, you have just opened a can of worms.

    I think we need a brain storming session to look at the direct and indirect impact of tin mining, rubber, oil palm, logging and the consequences of these activities.

    Through these activities, innocent people lost their lives, loved ones and property.

    I have not counted wild life, fauna and flora. In Sabah and Sarawak, natives have lost their land, orang utan numbers have dwindled through deforestation for palm oil and logging.

    I have never heard of retributions.

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