𝐃𝐢𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐊𝐞𝐤 𝐋𝐨𝐤 𝐒𝐢 𝐓𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞, 𝐀𝐛𝐛𝐨𝐭 𝐁𝐞𝐨𝐰 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐧, 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐦𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐭𝐨 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐚 𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐊𝐞𝐤 𝐋𝐨𝐤 𝐒𝐢?
𝐼𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑙𝑦, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝ℎ𝑦𝑠𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑎𝑛 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑏𝑏𝑜𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝐷𝑟 𝑊𝑢 𝐿𝑖𝑒𝑛 𝑇𝑒ℎ, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑓𝑎𝑚𝑜𝑢𝑠 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑔𝑢𝑒 𝑓𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑒𝑟.
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 𝒓𝒂𝒎𝒑𝒂𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒓𝒈𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒈𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒖𝒏𝒏𝒆𝒍𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒖𝒔𝒆𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒔𝒆 𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒄𝒊𝒕 𝒔𝒆𝒙𝒖𝒂𝒍 𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒆𝒔. 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 abbot’s seemingly endless patience to its knees.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐛𝐛𝐨𝐭 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐦𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠!
According to Dr Wu Lien Teh, the physician who tended to the abbot’s wound, "𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐛𝐛𝐨𝐭 𝐦𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐠𝐨𝐭 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐠𝐞 𝐯𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐤𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐦. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐲 𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐥𝐞𝐟𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐬𝐩 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐦𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐚𝐧𝐬, 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐤𝐞!"
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 abbot’s wound made sore by dripping urine and resulting sepsis. Fortunately, the injury granulated over time and by month’s end the pain had ceased completely. The formation of sufficient new skin allowed Dr Wu to finally cease attendance. He didn’t charge the abbot anything for his month’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 Abbot’s meritorious deeds and selfless sacrifice - the Dr Wu Lien Teh for saving the Abbot’s life - to thank for.
Photos by: - Sherwynd Rylan Kessler - Geraldine Ng on Unsplash - http://leavingfortherisingsun.blogspot.com/.../chinese... - New Straits Times Sources:  https://www.nst.com.my/.../kek-lok-sis-dark-secret-uncovered  Plague Fighter: The autobiography of a modern Chinese physician. Wu Lien-Teh (available at https://arecabooks.com/.../plague-fighter-the.../)