Mountain Gate

This is the main entrance to the Temple at 288, South Bridge Road, Chinatown, Singapore. Along this stretch of road, you will find the Jamae Mosque(1830), Sri Mariamman Temple(1844) and diagonally across the Fairfield Methodist Church. This is a testimony of the rich and diverse racial and religious harmony of Singapore.

Mountain Gate in BTRTM

This traditional temple gateway has 3 large, heavy, red lacquered doors in accordance with traditional Tang Dynasty. It is fitted with gilt bronze studs, engraved plates and lion door knockers. The entry via the center gate is restricted, usually reserved for important guests.

The mountain gate is also used for certain Buddhist ceremonies.

About Mountain Gates

Three components make up the foundation of ancient Chinese architecture: the foundation platform, the timber frame, and the decorative roof. In addition, the most fundamental feature is a four-sided rectangular enclosure, that is, structures with walls that are formed at right angles and oriented cardinally. The traditional Chinese belief in a square-shaped universe with the four world quarters is manifested physically in its architecture.

The mountain gate (Chinese: shān mén, 山門: Japanese: sanmon, サンモン, 三門 or 山門; Korean: sanmun, 산문) - the gate in front of the temple. The Japanese name is also short for Sangedatsumon (三解脱門 or Gate of the three liberations). Its three openings (kūmon (空門), musōmon (無相門) and muganmon (無願門) symbolize the three gates to enlightenment. Entering, one can free himself from three passions (貪 ton, or greed, 瞋 shin, or hatred, and 癡 chi, or "foolishness").

A fundamental achievement of Chinese wooden architecture is the load-bearing timber frame, a network of interlocking wooden supports forming the skeleton of the building. This is considered China's major contribution to worldwide architectural technology.

In traditional Chinese architecture roofs and ceiling, like the other structural elements, were constructed without nails, the layered pieces of the ceiling are held together by interlocking bracket sets (斗拱 dǒugǒng).

Dougong is a unique structural element of interlocking wooden brackets, one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture. It first appeared in buildings of the last centuries BC and evolved into a structural network that joined pillars and columns to the frame of the roof. Dougong was widely used in the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC) and developed into a complex set of interlocking parts by its peak in the Tang and Song periods. Since ancient times when the Chinese first began to use wood for building, joinery has been a major focus and craftsmen cut the wooden pieces to fit so perfectly that no glue or fasteners were necessary.

Famen Temple, Famen town, Fufeng County, 120 kilometers west of Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, China

Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery, Singapore

Other Photos

Development of BTRTM Mountain Gate

Before construction commenced, a temporary mountain gate was erected by craftsmen from Suzhou, to give Singaporeans an idea of what was being constructed.

The final design for the mountain gate was based on Tang dynasty, as researched by our China architects.


The entire wooden structure is from ‘Yellow Balau’ timber from Borneo. Theses timber was brought into Singapore for timber treatment before it was sent to Zhuji, China for cutting into the various shapes needed.

9 November 2005
At Zhuji, China, our main Chinese contractor had an entire timber workshop dedicated to this project. The staff there cut and shaped the timber into all the various pieces and shapes needed for all the timber structures for this temple.

5 November 2005
These completed timber pieces were then shipped back to Singapore, Chinatown for the team here to assemble and install the timber into dougongs, etc.


Due to the wet and humid tropical weather conditions in Singapore, it was decided that the load bearing columns be cast in concrete and to be wrapped with timber, to provide the traditional look.

The timber was then cover with successive layers of paste and linen before it was repeatedly sand down and painted with our special, natural red lacquer.

Above the concrete columns, the structure was completely interlocking timber, according to traditional methods. The roof structure’s elaborate Tang ‘dougong’ is a marvel of traditional geometry and craftsmanship.

After the main supporting structure was erected, the main timber buttress beam was hoisted into position in a special consecration ceremony on 18 January 2007.

Rafter Caps

Gilt bronze caps were placed at the ends of the round and square rafters below the roof.


The massive doors were then installed. There were multiple layers of paste and linen applied to further strengthened the door.

By April 2007, the mountain gate was ready to receive guests.

Inside view looking out

Door handles, studs and plates were then added to complete the door.

Roof Tiles

The gate is topped with specially crafted traditional Japanese roof tiles from Ishino Tiles Production Pte. Ltd., Nara, Japan. Ishino had adopted the traditional craftsmanship, with special processing and treatment, to meticulously produce the roof tiles named “Asuka 1”. The Asuka 1 has very strong water-resistance and dislodging-resistance; it is therefore most suitable for Singapore’s Chinatown, which has abundant rainfall, high humidity and traffic soot. The lotus roof edge tile was designed by Ven Shi Fa Zhao.

Roof Ornaments

A pair of traditional Tang gilt bronze roof ornaments (dragons) sits at the roof top of the mountain gate, providing contrast with the exquisite grey roof. These roof dragons (or “fish tails” – Japanese) were cast by Mr Matsuoka, Nara, Japan. The smaller roof dragons are also found on the bell and drum towers and the tea pavilion. The add strength and stability to these important roof structures.

Wind Chimes

A special musical wind chime hangs at every corner of the roof.


The exquisite BTRTM temple name plaque was carved by Mr Huang Yusuo from Putian, Fujian, China and hand-painted by Mr Zhang Jian of Shanghai You Shan Guan Decorative Design Co. Ltd.

On the right wall is the commemorative plaque for the Official Opening Ceremony by President S R Nathan, President of Singapore on 30 May 2007.

President S R Nathan cutting ceremony ribbon and unveiling of the commemorative plaque for the Official Opening

On the left wall is the plaque for the Grand Consecration Ceremony by Venerable Shi Kwang Shen, President of Singapore Buddhist Federation on 17 May 2008.

Venerable Shi Kwang Shen unveiling of the plaque for the Grand Consecration Ceremony

Gate Guardians

This is the main entrance to the Temple at 288, South Bridge Road, Chinatown, Singapore. Along this stretch of road, you will find the Jamae Mosque(1830), Sri Mariamman Temple(1844) and diagonally across the Fairfield Methodist Church. This is a testimony of the rich and diverse racial and religious harmony of Singapore.

Gate Guardians in BTRTM

This traditional temple gateway has 3 large, heavy, red lacquered doors in accordance with traditional Tang Dynasty. It is fitted with gilt bronze studs, engraved plates and lion door knockers. The entry via the center gate is restricted, usually reserved for important guests.

About Gate Guardians

Dvarapala (Sanskrit) is a door or gate guardian statue (either human or demonic) in Hinduism and Buddhism. They were traditionally placed outside Hindu or Buddhist temples and other structures to protect the holy places inside. Dvarapala usually portrayed as a fierce-looking creature. Depending on the size and wealth of the temple, the guardians could be placed singly, in pairs or in larger groups.

Dvarapala (China: Heng Ha Er Jiang 哼哈二将; Japan: Kongōrikishi 金剛力士, Niō 仁王, Shukongoushin 執金剛神; Korea: Geumgangmun 金剛門) are two wrath-filled and muscular guardians of the Buddha, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in China, Japan and Korea in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues.

They are manifestations of the Bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi protector deity and are part of the Mahayana pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with the historical Buddha to protect him. Within the generally pacifist traditions of Buddhism, stories of Niō guardians like Kongōrikishi justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil.

For Tang dynasty period, these are derived from the yaksha beings of Indian mythology. The dvarapala is usually naked from waist up, displaying powerful muscles and energetic movement, with fiercely scowling wrathful expressions, celestial scarves, a chignon on the head and swirling sarongs, standing upright on rocks.

Garbhavira (Chinese: Mìjī jīngāng; Japanese: Misshaku Kongō, 密迹金剛, Agyō (阿形); Korean: Miljeok geumgang; Vietnames: Mật tích kim cương) is the guardian of the Garbhadhatu Mandala (Mandala of the Womb World) and symbolizes the power it expresses of overt violence. His is placed on the right (east) of the mountain gate with his mouth open, with the shape necessary to form the "ah" sound, and bares his teeth, representing the vocalization of the first grapheme of Sanskrit Devanāgarī (अ) which is pronounced "a, which symbolizes the beginning of life.

He holds in his left hand a vajra mallet or "vajra-pāṇi" (a diamond club, thunderbolt stick, or sun symbol) i.e. a long staff with varja thunderbolt at each end. His right hand is lowered with fingers outspread. When painted, he is coloured red. It is equivalent to Guhyapāda vajra in Sanskrit.

Vajravira (Chinese: Nàluóyán jīngāng; Japanese: Naraen Kongō, 那羅延金剛, Ungyō 吽形; Korean: Narayeon geumgang, Vietnamese: Na la diên kim cương) is the guardian of the Vajradhatu Mandala (Mandala of the Diamond World) and symbolizes latent power. His is at the left (west) side of the mountain gate with his mouth tightly closed, representing the vocalization of the last grapheme of Devanāgarī (ह [ɦ]) which is pronounced "ɦūṃ" (हूँ), which symbolizes the end of life. (Men are supposedly born speaking the "a" sound with mouths open and die speaking a "ɦūṃ" and mouths closed).

He holds in his left hand a varja thunderbolt. His right hand is raised with fingers outspread. He is also depicted either bare-handed or wielding a sword. When painted, his body is green.

These two characters together symbolize the birth and death of all things. (Men are supposedly born speaking the "a" sound with mouths open and die speaking an "ɦūṃ" and mouths closed.) The contraction of both is Aum (ॐ), which is Sanskrit for The Absolute.

Since the Sanskrit name Vajradhara was translated into Chinese in a number of different ways, including Shukongoushin, Niou and Kongou rikishi, scholars consider them the same deity; however, the names Kongou rikishi or Niou refer to public figures used as gate guardians from the Nara period to the present.

Longmen Caves, China


Dvarapalas as an architectural feature have their origin in tutelary deities, like Yaksha and warrior figures, such as Acala, of the local popular religion. Presently some dvarapalas are even figures of policemen or soldiers standing guard.

These statues were traditionally placed outside Hindu or Buddhist temples, as well as other structures like royal palaces, to protect the holy places inside. A dvarapala is usually portrayed as an armed fearsome guardian looking like a demon, but at the gates of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, dvarapalas often display average human features. In other instances a fierce-looking nāga snake figure may perform the same function.

The sculptures in Java and Bali, usually carved from andesite stone, portray the dvarapala as fearsome danavas or daitya (asura race) with a rather bulky physique in semi kneeling position and holding a club. The largest dvarapala stone statue in Java, a dvarapala of the Singhasari period, is 3.7 meters tall.

9th century Plaosan Buddhist Temple, Java, Indonesia

The traditional dvarapalas of Cambodia and Thailand, on the other hand, are leaner and portrayed in a standing position holding the club downward in the center.

Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, 14th and 16th centuries, Thailand

The ancient sculpture of dvarapala in Thailand is made of a high-fired stoneware clay covered with a pale, almost milky celadon glaze. Ceramic sculptures of this type were produced in Thailand, during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, between the 14th and 16th centuries, at several kiln complexes located in northern Thailand.

Depending on the size and wealth of the temple, the guardians could be placed singly, in pairs or in larger groups. Smaller structures may have had only one dvarapala. Often there was a pair placed on either side of the threshold to the shrine. Some larger sites may have had four (lokapālas, guardians of the four cardinal directions), eight, or 12. In some cases only the fierce face or head of the guardian is represented, a figure very common in the kratons in Java.

Development of BTRTM Gate Guardians

Both the Gate Guardians were placed in their respective positions on 13 March 2009.

Then some gold leaf was added to enhance them.

These 2 Gate guardians are produced from special granite by Mr Zhu Poixiong from Zhu Poixiong Arts & Crafts, Putian, Fujian, China. These were carved by 2 deaf and mute brothers who specialise in carving of such stone Gate Guardians.

Naga Trees

In front of the BTRTM mountain gate, you will see 4 special trees enclosed in the red timber fencing. These trees have an important relationship with the Buddha Maitreya.

Nagapuspa Trees

This traditional temple gateway has 3 large, heavy, red lacquered doors in accordance with traditional Tang Dynasty. It is fitted with gilt bronze studs, engraved plates and lion door knockers. The entry via the center gate is restricted, usually reserved for important guests.

Naga Trees in BTRTM

These four special trees in front of the Temple are precious gifts from Venerable Galboda Sri Gnanissara Maha Thero of Gangaramaya Monastery, Colombo, Sri Lanka. They were root-balled from Sri Lanka and air lifted to Singapore to be planted in this very auspicious location.

About Naga Trees


Mesua ferrea (Ceylon ironwood, Ironwood tree, Indian rose chestnut, Cobra's saffron, Penaga lilin, Na (Sinhalese) or Nahar/Nahor) is a species in the family Clusiaceae. The plant is named after the heaviness of its timber and cultivated in tropical climates for its form, foliage, and fragrant flowers. It is native to tropical India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malay Peninsula, Indonesia but also cultivated in Assam, southern Nepal, and Indochina.


It is a medium to tall evergreen tree reaching up to 100 ft tall, with regular, conical, dense, dark green crown. It is a very slow growing tree. It is common in the wet zone at Sri Lanka up to 1,500 meters attitude.


It has simple, narrow, oblong, lanceolate, dark green leaves 7-15 cm long, with a whitish underside; the emerging young leaves are red to yellowish pink and drooping.


The large flowers are 4-7.5 cm diameter, with four white petals and a center of numerous yellow stamens, very fragrant. Flowering is usually irregular.


The fruits are ovoid, conical and dark brown with 1 – 4 compressed seeds.


The trunk is often buttressed at the base, with a trunk up to 2 meters in diameter. The bark is grayish-reddish-brown, shallowly fissured and flaky.


It is planted along roadsides for its attractive leaves.

The wood is very heavy, hard & strong. Weight is about 72 lbs per cubic foot & density is 1.12 kg/m3. Color is deep dark red. Refractory in sawing & mechanics moderately well. It is used for railroad ties, heavy structural timber, boat building, mine props, tool handles.

Its resin is slightly poisonous, but many parts have medicinal properties. It enhances the complexion. It leads to fragility transparency to the skin. The leaves are used to treat fever, sore eyes and leprosy. The flowers are acrid, anodyne, digestive, constipating, stomach ache. They are useful in conditions like asthma, leprosy, cough, fever, vomiting and impotency. The seed oil is considered to be very useful in conditions like vata and skin diseases. Dried flowers are used for bleeding hemorrhoids and dysentery with mucus. Fresh flowers are useful remedy for itching, nausea, erysipelas, bleeding piles, metrorrhagea, menorrhagea, excessive thirst, and sweating. The fragrant stamens used to stuff pillows and cushions for bridal beds. Oil from the seeds is used for sores, scabies, wounds, and rheumatism. The stamens and seed oil used to help control excessive bleeding.

The seed oil is used for lubrication and manufacturing of soap.


Whilst the Buddha Sakyamuni attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, the Maitreya Bodhisattva will attain Enlightenment under the Nagapuspa (Nagakesara) Tree. He will then go to Mount Grdhrakuta and hold the “Three Assemblies of the Nagapuspa” and leads hundreds of millions of human beings to Salvation.

Note: For more information about the Buddha Maitreya, please visit here.

According to the Maitreyavyakarana Sutra, The Prophecy of Maitreya, A Translation by Bhikkhu Kumarajiva, Mile chengfo jing《彌勒成佛經》:

“A Dragon (Naga) tree will then be the tree under which he will win enlightenment; its branches rise up to fifty leagues, and its foliage spreads far and wide over six Kos. Underneath it Maitreya, the best of men, will attain enlightenment - there can be no doubt on that. And he will win his enlightenment the very same day that he has gone forth into the homeless life.”

The Naga tree is also described in the Anagatavamsa, The Chronicle of the Future Buddha, Bhikkhu Ashin Kassapa, verses 99 - 103:

99 — "The Naga tree will be the awakening (place) for that Blessed One."

100 — "Its trunk will be two thousand cubits. It will have 20,000 branches with curved tips (always) moving. It will shine like the outspread tail of a peacock."

101 — "The tips (of the branches) will be continually in flower and fragrant with a heavenly smell. The blossoms will be the size of wheels, with enough pollen to fill a nali measure."

102 — "(The tree) will send its perfume in all directions for ten leagues, both with and against the wind. It will scatter its flowers all around the throne of awakening."

103 — "People from the country, coming together there, will smell the excellent odour and pour forth words (of admiration), rejoicing in its odour."


Many Buddha Maitreya images show Him with the Nagapuspa flower and a water vase. (Artefacts below are displayed at BTRTM Buddhist Culture Museum)

About Nagas

Nāga (Sanskrit: नाग, IAST: nāgá, IPA: [nəɡá], Javanese: någå, Khmer: នាគ neak, Thai: นาค nak, Chinese: 那伽, Tibetan: ཀླུ་, Bengali: নাগ) is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very great snake—specifically the King Cobra, found in Hinduism and Buddhism. The use of the term nāga is often ambiguous, as the word may also refer, in similar contexts, to one of several human tribes known as or nicknamed "Nāgas"; to elephants; and to ordinary snakes, particularly the King Cobra and the Indian Cobra, the latter of which is still called nāg in Hindi and other languages of India. A female nāga is a nāgī or nāginī.

Traditions about nāgas are also very common in all the Buddhist countries of Asia. In many countries, the nāga concept has been merged with local traditions of great and wise serpents or dragons. In Tibet, the nāga was equated with the klu, wits that dwell in lakes or underground streams and guard treasure.In China, the nāga was equated with the lóng or Chinese dragon.

The Buddhist nāga generally has the form of a great cobra-like snake, usually with a single head but sometimes with many. At least some of the nāgas are capable of using magic powers to transform themselves into a human semblance. In Buddhist painting, the nāga is sometimes portrayed as a human being with a snake or dragon extending over his head. One nāga, in human form, attempted to become a monk; when telling it that such ordination was impossible, the Buddha told it how to ensure that it would be reborn a man, able to become a monk.

In the 'Devadatta' chapter of the Lotus Sutra, an eight year old female Naga, after listening to Manjushri preach the Lotus Sutra, transforms her body into that of a male human and immediately reaches full enlightenment. This narrative reinforces the ironic viewpoint prevalent in Mahayana scriptures that a male human body is required for Buddhahood, even if a being is so advanced in her realization that she can magically transform her body at will and demonstrate the emptiness of the physical form itself.

Nāgas are believed to both live on Mount Sumeru, among the other minor deities, and in various parts of the human-inhabited earth. Some of them are water-dwellers, living in streams or the mer; others are earth-dwellers, living in underground caverns.

The nāgas are the servants of Virūpākṣa (Pāli: Virūpakkha), one of the Four Heavenly Kings who guards the western direction. They act as a guard upon Mount Sumeru, protecting the devas of Trāyastriṃśa from attack by the Asuras.

Mucalinda, Muchalinda or Mucilinda is the name of a naga (a snake-like being), who protected the Buddha from the elements after his enlightenment. It is said that four weeks after Śākyamuni Buddha began meditating under the Bodhi tree, the heavens darkened for seven days, and a prodigious rain descended. However, the mighty king of serpents, Mucalinda, came from beneath the earth and protected with his hood the one who is the source of all protection. When the great storm had cleared, the serpent king assumed his human form, bowed before the Buddha, and returned in joy to his palace.

Development of BTRTM Naga Trees

The four Naga trees were especially root-balled over a period of time, before being air freighted to BTRTM and planted after arrival on the evening of 11 April 2007. A special tree blessing ceremony was held on 12 April 2007.

Afternote: Two of the original Naga trees (at the extreme corners) planted in April 2007 was not doing well and was replaced with another 2 trees from Sri Lanka in May 2011.

Bibliography & Websites

Mountain Gate


  1. Standard Design for Buddhist Temple Construction is a Chinese language text written by Dàoxuān in the early Tang Dynasty. It described a design for Buddhist temples influenced by mainstream Chinese architecture, and based upon a traditional layout composed of multiple, related courtyards. This architectural tradition can be traced back to the Shang and Zhou Dynasties.
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Gate Guardians


  1. Frederic, Louis, Flammarion Iconographic Guides, Buddhism, Flammarion, 1995, pages 247 – 249, XXVII
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  1. Dvarapala - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Naga Trees


  1. Maitreyavyakarana Sutra: The Prophecy of Maitreya, A Translation by Bhikkhu Kumarajiva, Mile chengfo jing 《彌勒成佛經》
  2. The Prophecy Concerning Maitreya ('Maitreyavyakarana'), Translation @ by Edward Conze, in his Buddhist Scriptures (Penguin Books, 1959)
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  1. Maitreya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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