Intriguing tale of James Brooke and boy deity Kong Teck Choong Ong

The Wayang Park fountain is where Rajah Brooke was believed to have spotted the boy deity some 170 years.

By Wilfred Pilo

ONE of the routes that Rajah James Brooke often took on his horse after meeting his local subjects in Kuching was at the vicinity of the present Wayang Street.

Legend has it that the first White Rajah of Sarawak has a spooky tale that many locals don’t know about despite the place where it was believed to have happened is in a high traffic area in the city.

DayakDaily followed up on the modern trail of the White Rajah and located the area where legend has it that if you see a strange-looking young boy lurking around a water fountain playing with tortoises, please do be calm as it could be boy deity Kong Teck Choong Ong of Hong San Si Temple.

Hong San Si Temple’s Tortoises are favourite pets of boy deity Kong Teck Choon Ong.

Wayang Street resident Lim Kheng Hei narrated that some 170 years ago, the Chinese community in the area has a legendary folklore, which goes something like this — Rajah James Brooke often told his officials of his spooky encounter with a square-faced boy playing with a tortoise by a pond just across the then incomplete Hong San Si Temple.

“Rajah James Brooke often asked his subjects about the boy, but they were also unsure. To satisfy his curiosity, Brooke stopped by the temple one day and asked worshippers, who had just moved to the area from mainland China, whether they had seen the boy.

“They, too, told him that they never saw the boy, but based on the description given, they told Brooke that the description he gave fit their temple’s deity they called Kong Teck Choon Ong — who is widely worshipped in Southern Fujian Province,” said Lim.

Lim added that the worshipers told Brooke that he could see the deity as he (Brooke) was a noble and great man. They related that the deity had done many good deeds for the people of Southern Fujian Province.

“The Chinese nationals also revealed to Rajah James Broke that emperors of many dynasties in China had also honoured Kong Teck Choon Ong by building temples in his name,” he said.

Boy deity Kong Teck Choon Ong (left) statue at the Hong San Si Temple in Kuching.

The folklore had it that Brooke felt inspired after hearing the story and strongly believed that he, too, could do many great things for his subjects.

He then instructed the worshipers to build a water hydrant near the area to give his respect to the deity and wished that Kuching would be a great and prosperous city one day.

He also ordered his subjects to complete the temple and to seek his assistance if they faced problems. It was said that was how the temple was eventually completed, despite the spooky tale.

Lim (right) and Tan at Hong San Si Temple along Wayang Street.

Meanwhile, Lim’s friend, Tan Gek Seng, affirmed that such a tale indeed exists.

He lamented that the water hydrant was now gone. In 2005, the state government replaced it with a water fountain named Wayang Park Fountain, complete with a small garden.

Tan said, in fact, Wayang Street is filled with many folklore. The area and the temple have been declared a historical building under the Sarawak Cultural Heritage Ordinance 1993.

A view of Wayang Park fountain and the Hong San Si Temple along Wayang Street.

“We want people to come here and enjoy the beautiful temple and our city. There is nothing spooky here, and this place is now a very well known tourists’ spot,” said Tan.

He added that many festivals were held annually to commemorate the existence of the temple, which has other deities. Next month, will be Kong Teck Choon Ong’s birthday.

The birthday celebration boasts many offerings, colourful procession and Chinese opera performances.

The next time you walk or drive past Wayang Street and see a boy playing with tortoises by the water fountain, don’t be afraid. He is probably Kong Teck Choon Ong. — DayakDaily