Phuket has a large percentage of Chinese residents who have descended from those who emigrated from southern China a few centuries ago, to work in the tin mine business as coolies. These people brought with them their rich culture and traditions, and these influences are evident in the number of Chinese temples and shrines found around the island, and more markedly so in the annual vegetarian festival. Their religion was, and still is, predominantly a mixture of Buddhism incorporating Chinese and Taoist gods. Red and yellow are the main colours used in the temples and shrines. Animals such as dragons, lions and monkeys are also important symbols which are clearly visible.
Jui Tui Chinese Temple – Tao Bo Keng – 100 years old
The Jui Tui Temple, previously located in Soi Romanee, was moved to its current location after a fire destroyed the original many years ago. The temple is one of the most important in Phuket and plays a pivotal part in the famous annual Phuket vegetarian festival. The grounds are quite impressive and display photos of the temple dating back to 1911 when the temple was just a simple single construction, without side walls or additional buildings. The main building itself has been through a number of renovations, resulting in a beautiful exterior and interior, with three large altars ful of statues of Chinese Gods. The meaning of Jui Tui is that Jui refers to water and Tui refers to mortar. Previously, the front of the shrine was a wide canal with plenty of water. Then villagers helped to build a windmill to use for the power required to crush rice after it had been harvested.
Tao Boo Keng – Bang Niew Shrine – 107 years old
The Bang Niew Shrine or Tao bang Keng was built in 1904. At that time there was a shrine on the Soi and the Goddess Pra Tien Hoo Nguan Soy (Lao Len) was brought there to make merit by the Kang Chai Hee Chinese opera. Due to a fire at the original site, a group of villagers took Pra Tien Hoo Nguan Soy to be installed at the Bang Niew Shrine and assisted in rebuilding the shrine using wood with a thatch roof. 4 to 5 years later, once again, a fire occurred at the site of the shrine. Villagers then took Pra Tien Hoo Nguan Soy and placed her on land opposite the fire damaged site. Bang Niew villagers were greatly faithful. They made merit and now hold the vegetarian festival every year in remembrance. Unfortunately, due to growing numbers of visitors to the festival, this sire became too narrow. A committee, led by Khun Khunlert Phokharak, helped to renovate the shrine and villagers donated money towards buying 6 rai of land so the shrine could be made larger. In 1957, 5 administrative committees established the Thep Rasi Foundation. This shrine has now been developed into a big concrete building complete with a zinc roof, and is now a comfortable size for the number of people who also want to visit and make merit.
Cherng Talay Shrine – 110 years old
Ban Chern Talay, also known as Tin Le, has a large Chinese community. This is due to the fact that many Chinese came to the area seeking their fortunes in the tin mining industry. Due to the large numbers of Chinese in the area, there were many discussions about bringing Buddha images to Cherng Talay, from China, so that the community had some where to go to pay their respects to Buddha. Pea Ju Pai Tak, whose career was not in mining, but as the village barber, was often involved in the discussions. He soon accepted the challenge of returning to China, in fact to his home town, to seek out the Buddha images to bring back to the community in Cherng Talay. In 1901 Pae Ju Pai Tak took his trip to his hometown. When he returned he brought with him three wooden carvings of Chinese Buddha’s. Amongst the three carvings was one image that included the name “Joo”. A local community member named Pae Joo Jew Tee donated land on which to build the shrine, as the name of the Buddha contained a name which was the same as his. Therefore, the shrine was established. The committee persuaded people from the local community to construct the shrine building on the land which was donated. The shrine was built using wooden poles and was covered with a thatch roof and named the Abbey of Kim Hui Tian. The president Buddha image was Sam Ong Hoo, which referred to the God of the three holy Buddha image. There is also a legend told that there were more than 160 relatives who took part in looking after the abbey. Nowadays, there are two Buddhaimages of Sam Ong Hoo, one at the Cherng Talay shrine and another (Pra Joo Hoo) installed at Khun Charn Sermkitsri because of a request by Pra Joo Hoo himself. Lai Too Tao Boo Keng –
Kathu Shrine – 186 years old
After a Chinese opera come to perform at Baan Kathu, several performers had a serious illness. The performers remembered they had forgotten to make their vegetarian ritual, which they performed continually every year. They consulted each other and eventually agreed if they wanted to get well from the epidemic they should hold the vegetarian ritual at Baan Kathu. After performing the ritual the epidemic disappeared. They were very faithful to the Kathu villagers and the villagers participated in this ritual alongside the Chinese opera. Nobody knew about or was an expert in this ceremony, they could only respect and ask for pardon. There was an expert who lived in the Kung Sai County who saw the villagers performing the vegetarian ritual. He advised them that this wasn’t correct and was not the same as the original ritual held at “Chai Tung” (shrine in Kung Sai), so he volunteered to go back to light joss sticks and constitute the ceremony. In the night time, the expert came back from China by sail boat at Bang Liew (Bang Niew at present time)and sent news to the Kathu villagers that he had already arrived and told all committees in this ceremony to come to pick him up the next day (8th day of the ninth lunar month). He had brought with him joss stick powder, which was ignited continuously. He also brought chants from scriptures with Tao Bo Keng labels for attaching on the Chai Tung shrine.
Put jaw Chinese Temple – Over 200 years old
The Put Jaw Chinese Taoist Temple was built over 200 years ago and is the oldest of its kind in Phuket. It is dedicated to Phra Mae Koan-Im (Kuan Yin), the Goddess of Mercy. The main hall holds statues of the goddess and her attendants. The temple is situated on Ranong Road in Phuket Town. In 1908, following a serious fire, it underwent major renovations. May locals come here to seek help when they are suffering health issues. They shake a box of bamboo sticks until one falls out, they then use the number written on the stick to get a medication prescription from the temple (written only in Chinese) then take it to a Chinese herbalist for the ingredients. Many parents with Chinese heritage come to get names for their newborn babies. It is believed that if properly named their children will have a good and long life.