Tua Pek Kong Temple
Photo from Sarawak Tourism
Built in 1913, and located on (then known as) River Road next to the Miri River and alongside the old fish market, the temple was built and dedicated to the beloved deity by overseas chinese trading or working in Miri then. It is the oldest temple in Miri, and the only building that had survived World War II bombings and fires.
According to local legends, in the early 1900s as a result of the population explosion in Miri due to the oil boom, a mysterious epidemic spread, wiping out a large number of the population in what was then a small fishing village. The local chinese at the time believed the disease was caused by "evil spirits", and turned to a wise man, known as "Chan Chak", who suggested that a monk be commissioned to appease these "spirits".
A "spirit-pacifying ritual" was carried out near Miri River, and placed an altar at the location. The epidemic and death tolls did indeed stop - and in gratitude, the temple was erected near the river to revere "Tua Pek Kong", a god commonly worshipped by chinese immigrants who had left China in search for better livelihood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The temple since then had some renovations, with a major renovation work done in 1977, and had survived several small fires. In early 2015, higher than average rainfall led to floods in Miri that also submerged the temple in about 2-3 feet of water.
The worship of gods and donations were not only done by the chinese population, who were the original worshippers in the early 1910s, but by modern times many people of other races also sought help of various gods and goddesses such as "Zhu Sheng Niang Niang" - a goddess who blesses children - thus the temple has become one that is multiracial. The temple will also on occasion act as daycare for children, train and teach them basics disciplines such as self independence and use of chopsticks during meals, to tidying up after themselves and the art of patience.
Every single portion of the temple was built through donations from the community, and whenever various functions are in need of funds, such as food, there are many who would willingly make donations.
Because of its proximity to the Miri River (before the land reclamation project), the temple is situated right next to the Miri fish market, where the local catch is landed early every morning, a convenient shopping point for those who was done visiting the temple would then go next door to buy the catch of the day, and then buy meats and other produce at the central market before stopping for breakfast.
Each year on the 29th day of the third lunar month, the Tua Pek Kong worshipers celebrate the birthday of Tua Pek Kong with stage shows and a street parade for the "deities" as a protection and blessings to its worshippers.
For the 1st and 15th day of every lunar month, devotees visit the temple with offerings and prayers for protection and good fortune. The temple provides free vegetarian meals to devotees or visitors alike on these days. The food and rice are donated by the devotees and is given to the poor.
The temple is an architectural marvel, with elaborate designs on its pillars and walls of dragons and very distinctive roof pattern that is in line with temples of this kind. Visitors, even if not coming in to worship are allowed in without any restrictions to check out the design or just watch the worshiping process.