Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Low Kim Pong (1837 – 1909)

Low Kim Pong
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Kim Pong Road, within the Tiong Bahru Estate, was named after philanthropist Low Kim Pong (1837 – 1909).

Born in 1837 in his native Zhangzhou, Fujian province, he came to Singapore in 1858. He started as a small time businessman and went on to set up a medical shop, Chop Ban San and later Chop Hock Nam, which eventually became one of the largest Chinese druggist stores. He also dealt in private banking. Committed to social services, he was a member of the Chinese Advisory Board, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Society of Arts.

A devout Buddhist, he established the Siong Lim Temple in Kim Keat Road in 1902. (Siong Lim Temple is the common Hokkien or Fukien name of the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery (Chinese: 莲山双林寺), literally Twin Grove of the Lotus Mountain Temple)

At the age of 60, Kim Pong had a dream where he saw a golden light rising from the west over the sea (the west being symbolic of Buddhism which originated in India, and is west of China). He took the dream to be an omen, and went to the coast the next day. At dusk, he met a unusual Hokkien family arriving by boat.

The entire family had taken Buddhist vows and were on their way home to Fujian after a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. Low, moved by their devotion, tried to persuade them to stay in Singapore and spread the faith. He promised to build a temple for their use. The head of that family, Xian Hui, eventually became Siong Lim's first abbot.


dappled grass said...

Thanks for the enlightening post! My father used to hang out with Low Kim Pong's children and he told me all abt them. Hehe, it's good that this bit of history has been preserved.

I live near the Tiong Bahru area today, but not at the SIT flats. I like walking along the path between the flats. Gives me a feeling of tranquility, away from the bustle of life. Love the trees.

Irene said...

Hi, dappled grass,
My mum had spoken about Low Kim Pong long time ago. Would you know if his relatives are still here? It's interesting to find some links to the past.
Singapore lady.

dappled grass said...

I'm not sure. I have a feeling that they lost touch after moving house, but will ask my dad and post here again. :)

vlim said...

Hi dappled grass,

I'm interested to know if your dad is still in touch with any descendents of Low Kim Pong. My cousins and I have been looking up our family tree, and it appears our grandmothers were granddaughters of his. Thanks!