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Kek Lok Si's Dark Past


๐ƒ๐ข๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ค๐ง๐จ๐ฐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐Š๐ž๐ค ๐‹๐จ๐ค ๐’๐ข ๐“๐ž๐ฆ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐ž, ๐€๐›๐›๐จ๐ญ ๐๐ž๐จ๐ฐ ๐‹๐ž๐š๐ง, ๐œ๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐ก๐ข๐ฆ๐ฌ๐ž๐ฅ๐Ÿ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ช๐ฎ๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐š ๐ฏ๐ข๐œ๐ข๐จ๐ฎ๐ฌ ๐ฌ๐ฅ๐š๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ ๐š๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ ๐จ๐ซ๐ ๐ข๐ž๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ญ๐ฎ๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฐ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ฌ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐›๐ž๐ฅ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž๐ ๐Š๐ž๐ค ๐‹๐จ๐ค ๐’๐ข?

๐ผ๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘›๐‘”๐‘™๐‘ฆ, ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘โ„Ž๐‘ฆ๐‘ ๐‘–๐‘๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘œ ๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘๐‘œ๐‘ก ๐‘ค๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐ท๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Š๐‘ข ๐ฟ๐‘–๐‘’๐‘› ๐‘‡๐‘’โ„Ž, ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘š๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘  ๐‘๐‘™๐‘Ž๐‘”๐‘ข๐‘’ ๐‘“๐‘–๐‘”โ„Ž๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ.


The founder of the Kek Lok Si Temple, Abbot Beow Lean, was a scholarly and devout Buddhist who arrived in Penang at the end of the 19th century from Foochow, China. He was the Abbot at the Goddess of Mercy Temple at Pitt Street. Soon, he grew tired of the bustling city and saw the calm and serenity of the Air Itam hill which resembles the shape of a flying crane. It was at that instant he had the idea of building a monastery on the hill. Noticing that Penang had a large community of elderly wealthy women who were interested in religion, Beow Lean knew that this was the perfect opportunity for him to raise funds for the construction of an immense temple amidst the lush green hills of Ayer Itam. Over a period of five years, the temple steadily took shape, spreading over the thickly wooded slopes and arousing admiration in those who happened to cast their eyes on it.


Not long after that, vicious rumours, originating from jealous owners of less popular places of worship, began to spread about ๐’“๐’‚๐’Ž๐’‘๐’‚๐’๐’• ๐’๐’“๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’†๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’”๐’†๐’„๐’“๐’†๐’• ๐’–๐’๐’…๐’†๐’“๐’ˆ๐’“๐’๐’–๐’๐’… ๐’•๐’–๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’” ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’–๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’”๐’† ๐’Š๐’๐’๐’Š๐’„๐’Š๐’• ๐’”๐’†๐’™๐’–๐’‚๐’ ๐’‘๐’๐’†๐’‚๐’”๐’–๐’“๐’†๐’”. These wicked slanders reached their zenith in 1905 when the temple was completed. It took a further two years of ruthless onslaught to finally bring the abbotโ€™s seemingly endless patience to its knees.

๐“๐ก๐ž ๐š๐›๐›๐จ๐ญ ๐œ๐š๐ฌ๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐ก๐ข๐ฆ๐ฌ๐ž๐ฅ๐Ÿ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฌ๐ฅ๐š๐ง๐๐ž๐ซ ๐ฐ๐ซ๐จ๐ง๐ !

According to Dr Wu Lien Teh, the physician who tended to the abbotโ€™s wound, "๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐š๐›๐›๐จ๐ญ ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ ๐จ๐ญ ๐ก๐จ๐ฅ๐ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐š ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ๐ ๐ž ๐ฏ๐ž๐ ๐ž๐ญ๐š๐›๐ฅ๐ž ๐œ๐ก๐จ๐ฉ๐ฉ๐ž๐ซ ๐Ÿ๐ซ๐จ๐ฆ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ค๐ข๐ญ๐œ๐ก๐ž๐ง ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ซ๐ž๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ง๐ž๐ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ซ๐จ๐จ๐ฆ. ๐“๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž, ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ก๐จ๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐ฆ๐š๐ง ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ž๐ ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ฅ๐ž๐Ÿ๐ญ ๐ก๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ ๐ซ๐š๐ฌ๐ฉ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ž๐ง๐ญ๐ข๐ซ๐ž ๐ ๐ซ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฉ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ฆ๐จ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ข๐ฆ๐š๐ญ๐ž ๐จ๐ซ๐ ๐š๐ง๐ฌ, ๐ฉ๐š๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ญ๐ก ๐š ๐ฌ๐ข๐ง๐ ๐ฅ๐ž ๐๐ž๐ญ๐ž๐ซ๐ฆ๐ข๐ง๐ž๐ ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ซ๐จ๐ค๐ž!"


Dr Wu stuck to his ethics and upheld his Hippocratic Oath by not judging Beow Lean for his act. The skilled physician focused his attention on stopping the bleeding, relieving the excruciating pain and preventing urine retention. He was so meticulous that it was already daybreak by the time he left the sacred precincts of the temple.

After that, Dr Wu made daily trips to dress the abbotโ€™s wound made sore by dripping urine and resulting sepsis. Fortunately, the injury granulated over time and by monthโ€™s end the pain had ceased completely. The formation of sufficient new skin allowed Dr Wu to finally cease attendance. He didnโ€™t charge the abbot anything for his monthโ€™s work and merely revelled in the fact that he had helped save a life.

The abbot recovered completely. He spent the rest of his days making sure that Kek Lok Si served the needy and provided shelter to anyone who sought refuge under its roof. When he died, Beow Lean was cremated within the temple walls, allowing generations of worshippers to remember his meritorious deeds and selfless sacrifice.


Tonight, the Kek Lok Si Temple will be draped in thousands of lights to usher in the Year of the Ox.

And we have the Abbotโ€™s meritorious deeds and selfless sacrifice - the Dr Wu Lien Teh for saving the Abbotโ€™s life - to thank for.

Photos by: - Sherwynd Rylan Kessler - Geraldine Ng on Unsplash - http://leavingfortherisingsun.blogspot.com/.../chinese... - New Straits Times Sources: [1] https://www.nst.com.my/.../kek-lok-sis-dark-secret-uncovered [2] Plague Fighter: The autobiography of a modern Chinese physician. Wu Lien-Teh (available at https://arecabooks.com/.../plague-fighter-the.../)

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