Melaka Heritage Tip :: Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

This fascinating temple is the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia dating back to 1646 and spanning 59,250 square feet in the old town of Melaka. Cheng Hoon Teng is a premier historical monument that has survived the ravages of time. It remains the finest of Chinese temples in Malaysia – a fact underscored by an UNESCO award for outstanding architectural restoration.

The name literally means “Temple of the Evergreen Clouds”. Cheng Hoon Teng was founded in the 1600s by the Chinese Kapitan Tay Kie Ki alias Tay Hong Yong. During the Portuguese and Dutch eras, Kapitans were appointed chiefs or headmen of the various ethnic communities. Other prominent Kapitan is Lee Wei King, a native of Amoy om China. All materials used in building the original temple were imported from China, as were the artisans who designed and built it in the southern Chinese style to pay respect to the San Y Chiao, or Three Teachings, of Buddism, Taoism and Confucianism.

There is an inscription commemorating Admiral Cheng Ho’s epochial visit to Melaka. The brightly coloured roof bears the usual assortment of mythical Chinese creatures. Entered through massive hardwood doors, the temple is equally colorful and ornate inside. The temple’s ceremonial mast rises above the old houses on this part of Melaka.

From floor to roof, the structure of the temple can be divided into lower, middle and upper sections. A base plinth of stonework constitutes the lower section. The pillars carry the weight of the roof via a truss system, forming the middle section. The upper section comprises the truss system of wooden brackets which supports the cross beams and the weight of the roof.

Exposed structural elements allow air to circulate in halls filled with smoke from joss sticks. The painted beams are treated as part of the temple ornamentation, with red extensively used to symbolise the sun and the male Yang principle. Red also suggests joy, prosperity and festivity. Not a single nail was used in the wooden construction of the main shrine hall – a testimony to the master builder’s skill in carpentry.

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple Layout

Location map & photo gallery

Category: Heritage @ Melaka