Transformation of traditional Chinese religious beliefs in South-East Asian society : a case study of Taoism and Buddhism in Singapore.
Hue, Guan Thye.
Date of Issue2011
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Centre for Chinese Language and Culture
This thesis details the development of traditional Chinese religious beliefs in Singapore by tracing their early growth on the banks of the Singapore River to their present structure. It focuses on the propagation and evolution patterns of the Singapore Taoism and Buddhism, whose metamorphosis is a microcosm of the overall transformation of the Singapore Chinese community. Through a historical and sociological descriptive analysis of change in both religious social activities, as well as the resulting spatial aspects and the influence of the state land policy, it also evaluates the forces that have shaped traditional Chinese religious beliefs in this modern city-state. This thesis consists of nine chapters. The first chapter outlines the direction of the whole thesis; it highlights the motivation, introduces the general background, lays out the framework, and raises some perceptive questions. The second chapter is devoted to the general religious background of the region and the history of the three mainstream Chinese religions; it provides a fertile ground for the following chapters. Chapter three to six are the central chapters of the thesis. The third and fourth chapters compare the differing impacts of Fork Religious Beliefs and Traditional Taoist Beliefs on the historical development and patterns of propagation of Taoism. Chapter five and chapter six discuss the possibility of Singapore being an ancient Buddhist country prior to the 15th century, as well as the different propagation stages of Mahayana Buddhism in Singapore. Chapter seven highlights the predicament facing the propagation of the traditional Chinese Temple in Singapore and analyses how these Temples have accommodated to the utilization of space demands arising from the Urban Redevelop Programme and they have been transformed in their quest for survival in this city. Chapter eight links the previous chapters and dwells on the structure and development of both Singapore Taoism and Buddhism; it objectively presents the advantages and challenges faced by both religions and poses valuable question to be pondered. The final chapter provides a succinct sum-up of the whole thesis, demonstrating that this field work has brought the study of the Chinese religions of Singapore to a higher level. In sum, this thesis highlights the pattern of Taoist and Buddhist propagation in Singapore (before and after independence) and analyses their culture and belief structure in Singapore. As such a detailed study has not been done before, this study strives to fill this gap and make a valuable contribution to society towards a better understanding of Singapore’s Traditional Chinese religious culture and practices.