19 October 2010

The Idol With The Growing Beard

Have you ever heard of the God of Wealth idol, whose beard and eyebrows are alleged to have grown several inches, and even growing longer now as you are reading this post?

The Sembawang God of Wealth Temple houses several deities under its roof, but the one which is most talked about would be the resident deity himself. (For more information on the God of Wealth, you are encouraged to click on this ensuing link - http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/chinese-mythology.php?deity=CAI-SHEN )

The story of this peculiar idol goes like this:

A long time ago, the temple was just a simple altar housing a statue of the God of Wealth. Several devotees would come from near and far to pay respects and ask for riches. When many claimed that their prayers have been answered, the news was spread by word of mouth and reached the far ends of the island. Soon, the altar was turned into a small temple with donations pouring in from devotees.

The effectiveness of the idol had reached many Singaporeans, particularly those who gamble in 4D and horse racing. The numbers of devotees who had prayed and were successful in their gambles continued to donate their new-found riches to the temple. This was also about the same time that some sharp eyed devotees noticing that the beard of the idol had grown longer. Some claimed that they had measured the length of the idol's beard over a number of months and found shocking results, with the beard appearing to grown several inches longer. Some devotees even claimed that the eyebrows had grown as well.

[Photo credit : Sembawang God of Wealth Temple]  
Idols of Bai Hu / Hu Ye (White Tiger / Lord Tiger) in white, where offerings of meat and eggs can be often seen being offered in respect and the Tian Gou (The Heavenly Dog) in black, who was alleged by the ancient Chinese to have "swallowed the sun" in the event of a solar eclipse.

Both deities are actually celestial stars. People whose "Ba Zi" or numbers of destiny clashes with these 2 stars will have to pray and make offerings to appease the 2 deities to ensure a smooth sailing year ahead before or during the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Needless to say, this was seen as a sign that the deity's presence was so strong in the temple, he was literally "sitting" in the idol itself. More and more people came down to visit this peculiar idol and prayed for wealth. The temple was booming and the numerous donations enabled the management to to move into its current, bigger premises.

Which brings us back to the present day.

The One North Explorers recently paid a visit to this peculiar temple. It was unusually quiet, probably because it was a weeknight. A few devotees were seen praying to the numerous idols housed in the compound and the smell of incense lingered in the air.

Heading for the main chamber, we found out that there were several idols. Confused, we tried to ask the old caretaker which idol was the original one that was transferred from the old temple. He pointed to the idol in the middle. I tried to inch closer to take a better photo but was advised by the caretaker not to go too close to the idols to prevent myself from knocking the copious amounts of offerings over, which is considered a sign of great disrespect (and might possibly get me kicked out, pronto!).

[Photo credit : Sembawang God of Wealth Temple]
The main prayer hall where the idols of the various several Cai Shens were housed.

From the gleam in his eyes, I could tell that he knew what I was looking for. I asked him about the idol with the growing beard. His curt reply was ambiguous and left me even more curious to find out the truth.

"If you believe in the deity and have enough faith, then he is present. Hence, his beard and eyebrows would then have appeared to have grown longer to you. But if you are just an inquisitive person who has no devotion, then the growing beard is just a story that was blown up by others."

Despite my constant probing, he refused to say more, just smiling and nodding his head when I asked him whether it was true that devotees or the temple staff had measured the beard and eyebrows with a ruler.

So at the end of the day, I was left with an equivocal answer. Is this a real phenomenon?

And if it was real, could there be a scientific explanation for it?

Could it be the high humidity? Or could the beard be slowly expanding due to the sweltering heat, giving the impression that the beard was growing longer?

My guess is as good as anybody's.

[Additional section below added in 2018]

Apart from being unique of it's kind, the temple houses the world's largest God of Wealth statue.

Excerpt from Sembawang God of Weath Temple website :

"Among the many gods, the chinese God of Wealth is the most favored God located at Northern part of singapore,the temple is well known as Sembawang God of Weath Temple.

Sembawang God of Wealth dated back in May 1998 was invited from China to begin preparations,and in June 2004 we begin construction.

Our God of Wealth Temple cost 3 million which covers an area of 20,000 square feet and also with the help of so many supporters and Devotees,our building is completed.

First, it is the most outstanding and impressive of the God of Wealth statue which stand on the root top of the building of 31 feet high and 8 tonnes weight. "

[Photo credit : Sembawang God of Wealth Temple]
Statue to be assembled in parts

[Photo credit : Sembawang God of Wealth Temple]
Parts of the statue being carefully mounted

[Photo credit : Sembawang God of Wealth Temple]
Completed and stands on the roof of the temple

Comments? Inputs? More questions to ponder over? You are encouraged to leave your comments below.

Article copyright of Aaron Six-Stomachs Chan

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