The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of the most significant religious and cultural Buddhist institutions, located near China Town in Singapore. The temple was built in awe of the tooth discovered during the restoration of a collapsed stupa in Myanmar. The relic is known to be the “tooth of the Buddha”. The temple was built for the public veneration of the tooth. In 2002, the founder of the tooth, Venerable Cakkapala, brought the relic to Singapore for the exhibition, which was seen by 300,000 visitors over only a few days. The relic became beloved to the Buddhist and demanded a monastery worthy of displaying it so it can be viewed and praised by the Buddhists.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore: Dive into Serenity - Sheet1
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple_©John Gillespie/Flickr, aotaro/Flickr, Mike Cartmell/Flickr

Architecture and Philosophy

This remarkable five-story temple also houses a Buddhist Culture Museum, that promotes the culture as well as educates and provides welfare services to the public. The temple architecture creates a mystical ambiance, soft chimes of the bells and the fragrance of the incense sticks makes it one of the most visited tourist destinations. 

The temple is a Chinese Buddhist cultural complex founded by Buddhist monk Venerable Shi Fa Zhao, and inspired by the Buddhist temples during the Tang Dynasty in China. The temple reflects the shape of the mandala that employs the focus of the devotees of Buddha and practitioners of the religion and brings an element of spirituality to the temple. The temple consists of four floors, a basement, and a mezzanine floor in addition to an elaborative plant courtyard.

The temple reflects the architecture of the Tang dynasty, even the interior statues and decoration entails motifs from the Tang era. The building has a colorful exterior with traditional ornate carvings, Outstretched eaves, even-leveled roofs, traditional red lacquer paint, green windows, and gold edges lend it majestic elegance. (Chinatown Stories, 2019). 

Materials

The temple was built in a way that every single detail, from source material including tiles to heights of the ceiling, the details of the deities and sculptors placed inside, the gold on the wall, the symmetrical lights, and placements of sculptures creates an aura that fills a person with admiration and inspires with an overwhelming feeling. The structure was completed in 2007 and cost around $75 million to build. The exterior of the temple resembles traditional Chinese buildings, with slanting roofs and rafters made out of bamboo and wood. 

Construction

Buddha Tooth Relic temple is the only building in Singapore that is lacquered and not painted. Like most of the Chinese temples built in the olden days, this temple too is constructed without a single hammered nail. The technique used in the construction is known as dugong, meaning cap and block. The technique comprises the interlocking of wooden supports forming the skeleton of the building. The craftsmen cut the wooden pieces to fit so perfectly that no glue fasteners nor nails seem necessary. The timber is sanded and strengthened with plaster and linen at every stage. The wooden rafters showing from the slanting roof are capped with bronze ornamentation typically a gilded lotus that complements the facade of the building.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore: Dive into Serenity - Sheet2
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Planning

Temple is divided into several floors each representing a unique theme. On the first floor, there is a huge prayer hall surrounded by golden buddhas. The basement holds a theatre for films, seminars, workshops, orchestra performances, and other cultural programs. It also features a dining hall, where a simple vegetarian fare is served, the second floor houses a library, the third-floor act as the museum, and contains the Buddhists artifacts, whereas the most visited floor is the fourth floor that houses the centerpiece of the building and sits in the Sacred Light Hall with all its glory within a stupa made from 320 kilograms of solid gold. The lighting inside the temple enhances the aura of the spaces, adds to the visitor’s experience, brings mystical serenity to the worshippers, and draws closer attention to the temple’s intricate design and detailing. 

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore: Dive into Serenity - Sheet3
©Mathew Browne

Entrance

At the main entrance to the temple sits a magnificent 15-foot Buddha, carved from a single wooden log and then hand-painted using grounded natural stones and vegetable dyes. Monks and devotees pray and chant sutras in this chamber.

Rooftop

The roofs of the temple are four small pavilions, as well as a large ‘ten thousand Buddhas Pagoda’ housing a large prayer wheel. Every complete turn of the wheel will cause the wheel bell to ring leaving the visitors in awe of its whimsical chimes. 

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The Buddha tooth relic temple is a tranquil hideaway from the busy and chaotic lifestyle. Its emphasis is on the quality of life, the greatness of the Buddha and the enrichment of the Buddhist culture and it unlines the Buddha’s philosophy of life and cycle of life. It makes a person forget one’s self-desire and make them lose themselves in the mildness of the temple. 

References:

  1. Chinatown Stories (2019). Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.
  2. VOHRA, A. (2018). Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore. [online] WordPress. Available at: https://anilvohraphotography.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/buddha-tooth-relic-temple-singapore/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2021].
  3. Wienburg, C. (2020). Guide to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Singapore. [online] Once In A Lifetime Journey. Available at: https://www.onceinalifetimejourney.com/lux-singapore/buddha-tooth-relic-temple/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2021].
  4. Favager, L. (2016). Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore | arc. [online] arc magazine. Available at: https://www.arc-magazine.com/buddha-tooth-relic-temple-museum-singapore/ [Accessed 25 Dec. 2021].
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Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.

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