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History of BTRTM

 



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.

 

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 Design, please see the web section: The Temple/Introduction/ History of Temple Design)

 

 

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.

 

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.

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