It was a pleasant morning in George Town, Penang, as I wandered along a quiet street in Chinatown. Old Chinese buildings lined the street, each one showing signs of age and character; each with its own story to tell. As the street led me out of Chinatown, I could suddenly smell that unique aroma that could only be incense burning. A couple of little stalls selling Chinese religious offerings sat on the side of the street, leading me to the source of the smell. Just around the corner I discovered a large gathering of locals, and smoke from their joss sticks rose from the quite ordinary building that they were gathered at. The sign outside the building read “Kong Hock Keong”, and I realised that I had stumbled across one of the most important Chinese temples in Penang – the Goddess of Mercy Temple.
Kong Hock Keong is the temple’s official name, but to most locals it is known as Kuan Im Teng – Goddess of Mercy Temple. It is important not only for its popularity, but also because it is the oldest Chinese temple in George Town. The land was given as a gift by the British East India Company to the many Chinese Immigrants in the city in the early 1800’s. The Goddess of Mercy Temple isn’t anything too impressive to look at from the outside compared to other, newer Chinese temples in the city, but if you take the time to take a closer look, I think you will appreciate the significance and beauty of this important temple.
Throughout the temple, at most times of the day, you will find devotees here providing offerings to their deities. The aroma from the incense and candles is amazing, and stepping inside this old temple feels like quite a privilege. Just stand back and observe. Take the time to just appreciate where you are. It is actually very relaxing to be in a place like this.
It is easy to walk past the Goddess of Mercy Temple in George Town, but try not to miss it. It is an important part of the city and the history of Penang.