Vegetarian Aunt


Khin Chu Gu

Khin Chu Gu

“If you don’t like your fortune, you can pray to Guan Yin to change it. Later if you get the outcome you want, be sure to come back and offer thanks.”


In a small temple on Cuff road, squeezed in between the shophouses there, lives two “vegetarian aunts” – these are women adopted into the tradition of the Xiantian Dadao (先天大道 “The Great Way of Former Heaven”), an esoteric sect of Chinese religion devoted to the worship of Guan Yin.

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The sisters were adopted by the founder of the temple. But as they are both in their mid 70s and as adoption by single women is now mostly prohibited by the Singapore government (except in very selective cases), it is unlikely that new “vegetarian aunts” will be found to take over running of the temple.

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Guanyin Gong temple on Cuff Road was founded by Wong Ying aka Shen Gu Thai (Great Aunt Shen). Upon learning from her fortune that she would outlive 3 husbands, she decided to take a vow of celibacy out of compassion for her future spouses. Instead of marrying and condemning these poor men to death, she set up the temple.

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In the tradition of Xiantian Dadao, the nuns become vegetarians and are commonly referred to as “Vegetarian Aunts”. They vow to never marry.

Visitors to the temple may consult Guan Yin with Fortune Sticks (“Chi Chi Sticks”). The sisters are on hand to help with interpretation and advice on the proper rituals to carry out in order to gain divine compassion and/or give thanks.

On the day we visited, the girl seeking advice from Guan Yin was the great, great grand niece of the temple founder. She is well familiar with the practices and customs of the place which has been a place of community for her family for several generations.

Khin Chu Gu

Khin Chu Gu

Unfortunately, Guan Yin was not telling her everything she wanted to hear.

You long for words from heaven to fall from the moonlit sky. Dim it is and darkened by the racing clouds. Let not your heart be burdened with sorrow and care. The clouds will pass and you will begin anew.

Not the easiest of advice to hear when you want to move forward.

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But even this simple fate is not set in stone. Khin Chu Gu had words of comfort.

“If you don’t like your fortune, you can pray to Guan Yin to change it. Later if you get the outcome you want, be sure to come back and offer thanks.”

With nobody to carry on the tradition of Guanyin Gong, its own fate is uncertain.

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