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The Datuk Gong shrine of Joo Chiat Place Car Park

Amidst the shophouses of the Joo Chiat area, there is a public car park at Joo Chiat Place, and tucked away in a corner of the car park is a Datuk Gong shrine.

The shrine is under what I believe is a ficus tree, a tree significant in three faiths which originated from South Asia - Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

The bright yellow of the shrine and the steps leading up to it makes it easy to spot from afar.

The structure of the shrine looks modular, units stacked atop and alongside one another like Lego bricks, as if different parts were gradually added over time - which is usually the case for roadside shrines started and maintained by the community.

The centre altar is dedicated to Datuk Gong himself. The banner above has the Chinese characters, “Na Du Gong” - the Chinese for “Datuk Gong”.

There is no deity figure. Instead, he is represented by a stone wrapped in yellow cloth on the left, a tablet in the middle, and a walking stick on the right.

The top left altar is dedicated to an interesting entity - Nang Kwak, a Thai deity. She is dressed in red Thai-style clothing, and has a golden crown on her head. Her right hand is raised as if beckoning someone.

Nang Kwak is a deity of good fortune and prosperity, believed to bring money to a household or business. Here, on top of the usual altar offerings, perfume and makeup have also been bequeathed to her.

On the right side of the shrine, there are three altars. The top altar is accordingly dedicated to “Tian Guan”, or “Officials of Heaven”.

At the bottom, there are two altars. The one on the left is dedicated to Da Er Ye Bo, the famous pair of attendants who escort the deceased to the 10 Courts of Hell for judgement. The banner above them reads “Jiu Dian Da Er Ye Bo”; “Jiu Dian” means “Court 9”, which could be a reference to the 9th Court of Hell.

Finally, the altar on the right contains a tablet dedicated to the Earth Deity of the area.

A joss urn next to the shrine attracted my attention. It was at the foot of the ficus tree.

Above the joss urn, an amulet hung from a branch.

It was an amulet for the God of Wealth (Cai Shen), from the Sembawang God of Wealth Temple at Admiralty Street.

Perhaps, in the future, we’ll see a proper altar built for the God of Wealth, added to the shrine?

Upon studying Google Street View’s history, I was surprised to learn that the Joo Chiat Place Car Park Datuk Gong Shrine is just a few years old.

Up to 2013, the car park did not exist; instead, there was a field in front of the ficus tree.

2013. Credit: Google Maps.

Sometime between 2013 and 2015, the car park was built; the ficus tree was pared back to make way for the car park, but fortunately, it was not totally felled. There was an exposed mound between the tree and the car park.

2015. Credit: Google Maps.

Between March 2015 and September 2016, the Datuk Gong altar appeared on the mound - which means it is only six to seven years old.

2016. Credit: Google Maps.

From 2018, more altars were added to the shrine.

I hope the community will continue maintaining this shrine, and I hope that the authorities will leave the shrine alone.


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