Message by Venerable Wai Yim
17 June 2002, is going to be a significant day in the history of Shuanglin. In December 1991, the main complex was closed to the public, as the wooden structures, subject to the wrath of termites, became unsafe. Although the restoration of Da Xiong Bao Dian and Tian Wang Dian was completed in 1997, they would not be opened to the public then as the construction work of the East West Wing was still in progress. After 10 years of closure, last October, we held a grand religious ceremony to mark the successful completion of the restoration project. Following the completion of Dragon Light Pagoda recently, we decided to commemorate this noble occasion with an official opening ceremony and our Prime Minister, Mr. Goh Chok Tong has kindly consented to be our Guest of Honor. It is indeed a proud moment for us.
The original buildings in this compound were built in the latter years of the Qing Dynasty, at the end of the 19th century. They are the grandeur of the traditional Chinese architecture. You may ask what is the significance of their conservation? I like to quote the words of late Mr. Liang Sicheng, a renowned contemporary architect who spent much of his life on the study of Chinese architecture.
He said: “Architecture is an important form of representation of the culture of the people. In the world of artwork creation, architecture is the largest, the most complex and most enduring piece of artwork. It is the most obvious, most complex and most important expression of the art and philosophy of its people. Its racial characteristics and territory characteristics are meaningful.”
Flowing with richness, old buildings are cultural heritage. The restoration project of Shuanglin is therefore a conservation of our cultural heritage. The Chinese architectural traditions were passed down from generation to generation, by way of apprenticeship. At each location, many unique territory characteristics have been developed over the years. In the province of Fujian alone, we have Fuzhou, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou traditions and more. In Taiwan, when the Zhangzhou people decide to build a temple, they will go back to Zhangzhou to enlist a full team of Zhangzhou craftsmen and build a truly Zhangzhou temple. In Singapore, it is quiet common to find two teams of craftsmen from different locations coming together to build one single hall. Take our Da Xiong Bao Dian as an example. Its upper roof beams and trusses were the creative work of Fuzhou craftsmen while the Quanzhou team was the producer of those delicate elements on the lower roof truss. The two teams have joined up to produce a work of high quality. Their work is so excellently joined up that only the experts can make a differentiation and tell where one meets the other. Their joining of strength for the vitality of the construction work reflects the nature of our immigrant society. Pooling is strength. Our forefathers pooled their money, stood together spiritually to build Shuanglin. They brought craftsmen from their hometowns. The different traditions in Fujian are displayed uniquely in Shuanglin. Their acceptance of differences, their co-existence and co-operation even while acknowledging their different roots, and so creating a new community, is a good lesson for us to follow. Over the years of Singapore’s development from a fishing village to a new nation, the role of mutual influence has been critical. Moving towards Singapore 21, we need racial and religious harmony to lead us into a path of common identity as a cohesive nation.
During the lifetime of Buddha, HE advocated the co-existence of all religions. While preaching the teaching of Buddhism, our Lord Buddha never advocates the uprooting of other religions. The nature of the universe is plural and complex. It is not monistic. There is room for multi-religions. HE told his admires from other religions, to go back to practise in their own religious community. Following HIS spirit, for more than two thousand years, the Buddhists live peacefully with other religious communities all over the world. In molding the cohesiveness of our new nation, the development of mutual respect and mutual understanding is essential. It is our duty to make an effort to understand the teachings in other religions and at the same time provide others with the opportunity to understand the teachings of Buddhism. The establishment of a strong inter-religious friendship between religious leaders and between their followers will help to form a stable foundation for our nation. With the successful synergy eof economic entities, religions, art and culture, new vitality will be generated. May our descendants live on a wonderful land and enjoy a wonderful life.