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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Penang Environs

Kek Lok Si - Air Itam

0. Pleasures of Penang the central blog of our stay with the pictures of Georgetown.
1. Penang Chinese Temples and Clan Temples including the Kuan Yin Teng Goddess of Mercy Temple
2. Penang Indian Temples including the Sri Mariamman Temple
3. Penang Environs including Batu Ferrenghi, Air Itam, The reclining Buddha, Penang Hill Cableway, the Botanical Gardens and the Snake Temple.
4. Old Penang 1974

Kek Lok Si

Kek Lok Si, or Temple of Supreme Bliss, is the largest temple in Penang. It straddles a hillside overlooking the town of Ayer Itam. It is a temple that harmoniously blend Mahayana Buddhism with Taoist beliefs. Since the olden days, the hills of Ayer Itam, known as He San, or Crane Hill, were recommended as a retreat for Taoist practitioners striving for immortality. The Kek Lok Si project was mooted by the chief monk of the Kuan Yin Teng, Goddess of Mercy Temple of Pitt Street. With the support of the consular representative of China in Penang, the project received the sanction of the Manchu Emperor Guangxu (also called Jingdi, 1875-1908, of the Qing Dynasty) who bestowed a tablet and gift of 70,000 volumes of the Imperial Edition of the Buddhist Sutras.

Penang Hill Cable Car

Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram

Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, is the largest Thai Buddhist temple in Penang. It is often called the Temple of the Reclining Buddha of Penang, on account of the magnificent reclining Buddha image house in the vihara. The image of Phra Chaiya Mongkol measures 33 meters (108 ft) from end to end. However, the statue was only built in 1958, in conjunction with the 2500th anniversary of the birth of Buddha, at a cost of M$100,000.

Penang Botanical Gardens

Batu Ferringhi

Snake Temple

The Snake Temple in Sungai Keluang, Bayan Lepas, officially called Hock Hin Keong, but known variously as Ban Kah Lan Chua Beow or Ser Miau, is one of the most peculiar temples and probably the only one of its kind in the world. It was built in 1850 to venerate a deified Buddhist monk named of Chor Soo Kong, the Hokkien name for Cheng Swee Chor Soo. In Cantonese, Chor Soo Kong is called Chou See Yeah. "Chor Soo" is in fact an honorific title for an eminent historic figure who is to be continuously revered by subsequent generations. Chor Soo Kong and Chou See Yeah means the same thing: "The Much Honoured Chor Soo".

The actual name of the Snake Temple is Ban Kah Lan, in Hokkien, or Temple of the Azure Clouds. Every year, pilgrims come from far and near on Chor Soo Kong's birthday, which falls on the 6th day of the first lunar month, hence it's a traditional temple to visit during Chinese New Year.

Chor Soo Kong was born in Fujian province during the Song Dynasty (960-1276 AD), during the reign of Emperor Ren-Zong (1023-1063 AD). He is from the "Tan" clan and his personal name was "Eng". He entered monkhood from an early age. Upon his ordination, he received the Buddhist name Pu-Zu. He started his life as a monk by staying at a monastery called Da Yun Yuan. Later on, he decided to lead an ascetic life in Gao-Tai Mountain, to strive for spiritual cultivation. Through the guidance of Zen Master Ming-Song, Chor Soo Kong attained spiritual enlightenment.

In addition to spiritual enlightenment, Chor Soo Kong acquired extensive medical knowledge, enabling him to provide medical services to the needy in the surrounding communities.

On the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Shen-Zhong of the Song Dynasty (corresponding to around the year 1073 AD), the area of Qing-Xi in Fujian suffered a terrible drought. When Chor Soo Kong went there and prayed for rain, and the rain came. In gratitude, the people built a monastery for him on Peng-Lai Mountain. Chor Soo Kong called the monastery Cheng Swee Giam, which means, The Rock of Clear Water. From this name, when Chor Soo Kong was deified,

In 1850, a monk arrived from China, bringing with him the statue of Chor Soo Kong. The monk then built a temple dedicated to Chor Soo Kong in a clearing by the Sungai Keluang river in Bayan Lepas. The area belonged to David Brown, the largest land owner in Penang. Brown donated the land for the temple after he was healed of an ailment. At that time, the surrounding area was jungle, and there was plenty of snakes. After the temple was erected, snakes particularly poisonous Wagler's pit vipers started coming to take shelter there, inhabited various parts of tyhe temple. Rather than harming the snakes, the pious monk provided shelter to them. Although the poison is not very dangerous, the bite can be very painful and can cause much swelling. However the snakes are usually sluggish and seldom bite.

Continuous development of the surrounding areas in Bayan Lepas has today enveloped the Snake Temple, resulting in a loss of habitat for the snakes, and a general reduction in their numbers. The jungle behind the temple has long disappeared, and it is now part of the Bayan Lepas Industrial Zone housing various multinational corporations.