Nan Tian Dong Taoist Cave Temple ("Nam Thien Tong" in Cantonese) is sandwiched between Ling Xian Yan and the further inward, San Bao Dong Buddhist Cave Temple. It used to be ranked at par with the San Bao Tong and whenever you mentioned San Bao Dong, you will automatically associate it with the name of Nan Tian Dong. "Dong is referred as "cave" while "Nan" is South and the word "Tian" is sky; so if you translate that in English, it simply means, the Cave to host the various Buddhist figures from the southern Sky (heaven). As illustrated with the various colorful personalities and characters at the lower portion of the temple entry section; yes. This is a Taoist Temple in its nature and its another alternative name is Nan Dao Yuan ("Nam Tou Yun" in Cantonese), means College of Southern Religious Principles).
Nan Tian Dong is also a limestone Chinese Cave temple. Legend says it was discovered by a Chinese Taoist priest named Kuong San Teik back in 1867 which means to say this temple has a long history of more than 120 years old. In fact, according to a well kept historical journal maintained by the temple management committee, this current chief Taoist priest is at its fourth generation management.
<<<--- An old picture of Nan Tian Dong (Tong) Buddhist Cave Temple, during its early days. Actually, anther picture shown from a posting from a lady at Ipoh.org even illustrated a wooden toilet at the front, which suggests that picture was even older than this old postcard scan.
Similar to the San Bao Tong, this heritage religious site suffered a disastrous outcome from a mudslide occurred in 1973. However, the incident has the public awaken to the needs in reconstruction which resulted gradual development to its current state. Today, Nan Tian Dong can be regarded as one of the best maintained cave temple in Ipoh city. The progress of this temple indirectly reflects the following of school of Taoist is quite strong in the local Chinese community.
Other than the many Buddhist Taoist Guru figures, one of the highlight of this temple is, landscaped compound includes an aquatic pond which keeps four South American fresh water fish measuring seven feet in length. Inside, this cave temple, there is even a staircase of 138 steps which lead visitors near the top of this range which covers 4 main cave temples (one at the back section).
The existence of this cave temple is good. Basically, it showcases the difference between Taoist and Buddhist temples. The comparison makes it as a worthy visit if you are interested in finding the facts and practice of two schools in their respective nature. For foreign tourists, be patience, make sure you have all the time in the world to explore further inside of the cave temple as with the San Bao Dong concealed basic behind the main hall via the cave tunnel, Nan Tian Dong has another hidden cave of even larger scale at is back via the passage way at the main hall (A small hint: plenty of tropical monkeys..and have a good panaromic partial view of Ipoh city).
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Credit: To all the good people who have contributed their own experience, resources or those who are kind enough in granting us the permission to use their images that appeared on this site. Note: Certain content and images appeared on this site were taken by using a Canon PowerShot Pro-1 digital camera. Some materials appeared on this site were scanned from some leaflets, brochures or publications published by Wat Pak Nam and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such dispute except rectifying