A couple years ago, a clip of a group of Malay boys performing the lion dance went viral on social media.
They used a cardboard box as the lion’s costume and wooden sticks as well as empty cans for their instruments.
The boys credited their interest in this particular Chinese culture after watching lion dance performances at Ching San Yan temple.
This Buddhist place of worship is also widely known as Muara Tebas temple and has a history spanning over 200 years.
It is oddly located in Kampung Muara Tebas which is a Malay village.
The history of Muara Tebas temple
According to legend, seafarers built the temple there after safely arriving in Kuching after crossing the South China Sea from China.
Here, devotees pray and extend their thanksgiving to Buddha Shakyamuni and Chinese sea goddess Mazu.
She is believed to roam the seas protecting her believers from harm.
The temple underwent renovation back in 1903. Since then, it was given a major facelift from 1994 to 2000.
Now, the Muara Tebas temple has exquisite wall paintings and elaborate sculptures, complete with a landscape garden.
It has a typical Chinese Buddhist architecture and layout. The grand mountain gate (front gate) is the entrance to welcome the visitors.
Two Imperial Guardian Lion statues stand at the entrance, ready to protect the temple.
Since it is built on a hill 120 feet above sea level, the temple offers a picturesque view over Sarawak river.
The colourful pavilion also offers a good place to enjoy the view.
Once inside, you’ll discover that the main building has a courtyard, a regular feature in most Chinese Buddhist temples.
And of course, there are plenty of statues of the Chinese Buddhist pantheon.
Kuching Hokkien Association has been responsible over the management of the temple since 1984.
Muara Tebas temple during Chinese New Year
The temple is usually flooded with devotees during Chinese New Year.
However, the busiest day of the year would be on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year as devotees believe their deities return to Earth from heaven.
They would pray to and welcome the gods who went to heaven on the 24th day of the twelfth month to report on human deeds.
After visiting Muara Tebas temple, some faithfuls rent a boat to visit nearby island Pulau Lakei to visit ‘batu singa’ (lion rock).
The island is located near the northern part of Bako National Park, another tourist hotspot in the Muara Tebas peninsula.
The peninsula is situated about 30km from Kuching town and is also famous for its seafood restaurants.
For those who are travelling by car to visit the temple or enjoy the seafood, there is a small parking fee charged by the villagers.