Dec 15, 2004
|Chinese is the dominant language and culture in Singapore, and there is a wonderful area in this city, very well cared for, with a wide range of architecture.
"Singapore Walks" offers a very informative and entertaining walk that includes a visit to a temple where the Chinese people worship - Buddhism, Ancestor Worship, Taoism, and Confucius shrines were all highlighted. We were welcomed in this temple, and people came and prayed while we were standing and listening to the tour guide. These four areas of spiritual experience are all valued. The values espoused in these four concepts are sometimes contradictory, but it seems not to matter.
There is a view that our soul does not die - we simply enter Hell for a short period of time, then transition into another body - as a human, a dog, or something else. When we die, we will have an opportunity to do things which we may not have been able to do, and those left can send us support in our afterlife, if we are sent with images of those things we might need. For that reason, the corpses have been given by mortals paper images of whatever those left would like to send - food, drink, cars, servants, buildings,airline tickets, passports, money, etc.
Many Chinese have both a Western Doctor, and a Chinese doctor. The western medicine often focuses on treating the disease, and the Chinese medicine takes a more holistic approach, and it includes items that will restore a person to health. We visited a Chinese pharmacy, and learned about some of the medications used for maintaining health.
In Singapore, there are many apartments built by the government for the citizens - in fact, 85% of people in Singapore live in such government housing. You do not rent - you buy a n apartment. These are affordable ($100,000 SD and up), and people look after them because they own them. Some are very nice, and very big. After a big fire in a poorly managed area, the government committed to build these. The government even has built facilities where businesses can house foreign workers.
We visited a "wet market", right in downtown, where we saw turtles, fish, and frogs that are slaughtered so they may be cooked fresh. There is Bitter Melon for treating hypertension, lotus root, Pandan that is used for adding fragrance and colour to food, and bamboo shoots. If you tie up a leaf of Pandan and put it in your shoe closet, it will kill the odor, and if you put it in your backpack, it will scare off bugs and silverfish.
There was a street where people would go to death houses. When they were ill, and they knew they were going to die, they would go to these houses, make their arrangements, buy their coffin downstairs, and go upstairs to die. They did not have anyone to care for them, they just waited to die. These were ugly places, and there was much pain in these houses. The street has now been changed and converted into a market.
Chinese coolies were imported to Singapore - they thought they were coming to shovel up gold from the streets of Singapore, and they traveled on overcrowded ships to a destination that turned them into slaves. Of the people who left southern China, 2/3 of them would die or be fed to the sharks over the duration of this journey, which would take 1 to 5 weeks. These people worked hard in the oppressive heat, and they used the gambling houses, the brothels , and the opium dens to take away their pain. There were many men, and very few women in Singapore at the time, and it was a dangerous place to be female.
The city is very different, today. Good food, bright and cheerful storefronts, and racial and ethnic tolerance are the hallmarks of Singpore. The glass and steel buildings seem a far cry from the troubled past.