Thian Hock Keng was where Chinese immigrants to Singapore used to come to give thanks to Ma Zu (‘Goddess of the Sea’) for their safe passage. Built in 1842 in traditional south Chinese style, with roofs crowned by writing polychrome dragons and an entrance compound festooned in ceramic flowers and intricate carvings, the shrine is an architectural and decorative feast. Worshippers come to light finger-thick incense sticks and candles in front of the temple’s impressive centrepiece: a statue of the Goddess herself, flanked by the gods of War and Life.

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