The Seng Wong Beo Temple (also known as the Du Cheng Huang Gu Miao Temple) might seem a little out of place sitting in the middle of busy Tanjong Pagar, but this place of worship is one of the oldest in Singapore, established in 1905 and dedicated to Wei Ling Gong, a highly ranked City God in Chinese culture.
In Chinese culture, city gods are believed to protect the people and the affairs of a particular village, town or city – and even the corresponding afterlife location.
Besides the main city god, the temple also houses other significant idols like Justice Bao, who is the cultural symbol of justice in Chinese society, the deity Martial Guan Di, known for his religious devotion and righteousness, Tua Li Ya Pek, an underworld god of wealth, the God of Culture and Literature Wen Chang Di Jun, and the duke of filial piety, Xiao Zi Gong, to name a few.
A notable feature of the temple is that it doesn’t have the grand features most Chinese temples in Singapore are known for but it is still a significant spot and still carries out a lot of religious rituals for worshippers.
Beyond the protection it’s gods offers our city, this temple on Peck Seah Street is known for something else – ghost marriages.
What in the (other) world?
The practice of ghost marriages is a folk ritual that unites two young, unmarried deceased spirits, as requested by their parents.
The main holding area in the temple, also known as the Hall of Gods, is where most of the worshipping happens. But within the temple, there is another inner hall. And behind that, Rui Yu Hall.
Rui Yu Hall is where you can find ancestral or spirit tablets, traditional ritual objects that symbolize the continuation of family bloodlines and are believed to protect descendants from danger and harm.
This is also the hall where ghost marriages happen.
It usually begins when two bereaved families decide to unite the souls of their dearly departed, but sometimes a matchmaker is engaged to find a (deceased) partner for the deceased family member. When both parties are agreeable, the souls are brought together in holy matrimony.
What’s a ghost wedding like?
Well for starters, there is no hotel banquet, pre-wedding photoshoot or gown fittings to book. The ‘wedding’ is held in Rui Yu Hall and involves a priest blessing paper effigies that represent the bride and groom.
The figurines are then presented with food and offerings tied with a red thread. The dolls are then led through paper gates and bridges before being offered paper models of gifts from the family members – these can include everything from food and beds to cars and houses.
All the paper offerings are then burned in an incinerator in the temple.
It wouldn’t be a wedding without a ring exchange – the priest slips a ring onto the effigy of the groom, and then his mother will have to ask the bride if she wants to be wedded to him.
Two blocks are then tossed in the air and if both land on ‘yes’, the priest will wed the souls. Afterwards, the paper bride receives a ring that her mother helps put on.
Ghost weddings on the big screen
Curious about this ritual? There’s actually a local movie all about this unique ceremony called A Fantastic Ghost Wedding.
But you can try your luck and visit this temple to see if there are any otherworldly wedding dates coming up.
113 Peck Seah St, Singapore 079332
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