Along with Batu Cave in Kuala Lumpur, San Bao Dong cave
Buddhist temple and the accompanying caves temples in Ipoh ("Ba Loh", an
old favorite name in Cantonese) are probably one of the few most famous religious
temple locations in Malaysia. Strangely, when I asked a gentleman at the counter
who sells joss sticks and others, he said the managing Monk was not entirely too
keen on the issue of tracing the origin and history of San Bao Dong. All I can gathered
from some old folks was, it was probably built in or earlier than 1887 which coincides
with the neighboring Nan Tian Tong which recently celebrated it 119 years history.
However, whatever it is, all we know San Bao Dong was
built by a (or a few) migrating Mahayana Buddhist monks where the Taoists were settled
in the nearby Nan Tian Dong as neighbor. But according to another version, contruction
of this temple into a full-scale Buddhist temple in 1926 was by a Monk named Qing Xin (1882~1955)
from Guangxi Province, China. He was also the monk who first converted the Guang
Fook Yan cave as temple earlier in 1917 (see an old picture of the temple at the
index page). He was succeeded by ZongJian (19??-1981).
An old picture of San Bao Dong (Tong) Buddhist Cave Temple, during early days,
the picture was download from a forum posting from a pretty young lady at Ipoh.org. When you compare this old photo with the current state
of the temple, it changed a lot.
I have been to San Bao Dong (Simplified Mandarin
pronunciation) or Sam Bou Tong (local dialect, in Cantonese) on & off many times
over the last couple of decades. Although the later years, whenever I come to this
cave, I am more inclined to think it is a place where you can set aside my ever-tiring
soul. This place simply offers a different ambient and calm you down. Partly, it
is also due to my late parents are rested at the annexed block. In here, I find peace
and comfort never experienced else where. Another reason could be the cool atmosphere
as it is actually surrounded by rocky granite/limestone hills, with lush of green
in tropical vegetation. Lastly, just like any religious spot, the serenity in what
you are strongly believing into makes all the difference.
Well, even if you are not here for the sake of Buddhism, on its own, San Bao Dong
Buddhist Cave Temple presents as a lovely site to visit. Inside or outside, there
are numerous scenic sights to excite. For Chinese, it carries with a historical path
which indirectly synchronizes with the development of the Chinese community in Ipoh.
So, it is not only a place of worship for Buddhist, it is also a cultural and heritage
centre of Malaysian Chinese in this city. The temple actually suffered a disastrous
mudslide from a nearby opened cast tin mine in 1973 and took more than 5-6 years
to repair the damages. Today, the temple maintainance was solebly based on charitable
donation by locals and it is good for some of you to consider such a possible option
in lending a hand in ensuring sustainability of this heritage site. Cave temples
in general, have many presentable element for a tour or simply for geographical studies.
For those who may be not able to take a visit due to religious reason, you may try
the nearby Gua Temburung
as both locations are only less than 10 km apart. Enjoy.