Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
MANTIN, Seremban -- A Tam Kung Temple can be seen standing near the main street in the vicinity of the Hakka village at Mantin, Negeri Sembilan. The oldest heritage building around, the temple has witnessed the tremendous growth and development of the town. The engravings on the ancient bell inside the temple prove its age of at least 110 years.
Since Tam Kung Temple was built in the Hakka village, only residents of Hakka descent would pay homage to the deity back in those days. However, devotees from nearby places have later begun to flock into the temple to pay their respect as well.
Tam Kung Temple has gone through three stages of development from the shabby attap roof in the early years to zinc structure and now solid brick walls.
Yap Ya Qing, the person in charge at the temple, told Sin Chew Daily that based on historical records, local dignitary Yap San initiated a fund raising campaign in 1963 to rebuild the temple, replacing the zinc structure with a solid brick temple. A photo of then finance minister Tun Tan Siew Sin handing RM10,000 of allowance to Yap San for the reconstruction of the temple is seen hanging on the wall.
Escape from Japanese invaders
Rmours have it that the deity Tam Kung was embodied as a young man in white assisting the villagers to escape from the assaults by the imperial army during the Japanese occupation.
In 1942, the Japanese made the landing in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, and the army advanced through the jungles towards the south, passing through the town of Mantin.
Yap said Mantin residents had no knowledge of the arrival of Japanese army until the night before their arrival, as the dissemination of information was difficult during those years. A young man wearing white suddenly appeared in the village, urging the residents to stay indoors to avoid massacre.
Yap added that the rumour is still circulating in the town today and local residents believe it was the deity who came to rescue the people. As a result, many devotees have come here to offer their prayers during the annual celebration of Tam Kung's birthday which falls on the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar.
Yap said the Tam Kung temple was erected before 1899 and has therefore been in existence for at least 113 years now. The ancient bell was installed after the construction was completed and the temple should therefore be the oldest in the town of Mantin.
The temple even predates the Hakka village itself although no one can trace the exact date of its completion. Yap believes the temple has been in existence since the first Chinese migrants arrived in the town.