History on The Snake Temple
or HOCK HIN KEONG
The Penang Snake Temple was
built in 1820 in Bayan Lepas to pay homage to a renowned healer from
China. It is also known as "Ban Kah Lan Chua Beow" (in Hokkien)
or Temple of the Azure Clouds and the temple’s resident Deity is Cheng
Chooi Chor Soo Kong. He was deified in Fujian after he brought
rain to the drought area of Qing Yi. He was also a master
healer. In the 18th Century, a monk arrived from China, bringing
with him the statue of Cheng Chooi Chor Soo Kong. The monk then
built a temple for this Deity in a clearing by the Sungai Keluang in
Bayan Lepas, on the 4-1/2 acres of land donated by the family of the
Estate of David Brown. It was to show their appreciation to the
monk for curing and restoring the health of one of the members of the
Brown family. (Source: Trustees
of Hokkien Kongsi, Penang)
According to stories handed down by our forefathers, snakes from the
surrounding area mysteriously appeared in the temple after its
completion. To the monk, it was a good omen and an auspicious
sign from Heaven. He immediately gave shelter to the snakes and
allowed them to stay in the temple. So far, only Wagleri pit-vipers
(common name temple pit-vipers), which are nocturnal, arboreal and
venomous snakes, are found in this temple. They appear docile and
oblivious to the close proximity of curious visitors because, being
nocturnal creatures, they sleep in the daytime.
Located within the temple site are two historical wells.
According to local folklore, the two wells represent a pair of eyes of
a heavenly dragon. After the completion of the temple, it was
said that the Door of Heaven opened and a dragon (representing the
heavenly spirit) appeared above the temple and danced several times to
bestow blessing upon the devotees. Finally, it landed in front of
the temple with its tail facing west, its body towards the east and its
two eyes in the direction of north-east. It was believed that
this extraordinary position signified the best fengshui position.
The pair of eyes of the heavenly dragon then became the two wells, the
left one is 10 ft deep and 3 ft in diameter and the well on the right
is 10 ft deep and 2 ft in diameter. As the water flowing in the
wells was clear and sweet, it became a source of water supply for the
villagers living in the vicinity of the temple. Those who drank from
the wells had good fortune, good health and long life. It was
believed that the fengshui wells were divine gifts from Cheng Chooi
Chor Soo Kong.
There is also a 600 lb antique bell from China, a relic from 1886,
hanging in the main hall. Devotees can hear the bell ringing on
the 1st and 15th days of each month of the Chinese lunar calendar to
invoke the blessing of Cheng Chooi Chor Soo Kong upon all devotees.
Since its construction in 1820, the Snake Temple has undergone several
renovation and restoration projects, the latest being in 2008.
During the year-long restoration work in 2008, the roof was carefully
restored using porcelain shards to decorate the mythical creatures and
figurines. This type of porcelain cut-and-paste shard work is
called "Chien Nien". The interior of the temple was also restored
to its former splendour. During the restoration process, the
snakes were taken out of the temple to protect them, and were only
returned to the altars upon completion of the restoration project.