Tragedy and Hope for Happiness – Stories from the Girl Temples

Piotr Adamek

A German Catholic young woman is venerated on the Island of Pulau Ubin, to the east of Singapore. An “influx” of mainly Chinese pilgrims comes regularly to her temple, the “Berlin Sanctuary” (Bolin yuan 柏林苑), Lady Datuk Temple (Nadu guniang miao 拿督姑娘庙) or simply the shrine of the German Girl (Deguo guniang miao 德国姑娘庙) as it is called. A Barbie doll that represents the German girl stands on the altar among articles that we associate with a young woman, such as hairbrushes, perfume, lipstick or necklaces. A pink musical box plays sweet melodies. Flowers and incense are offered. And prayers are said. According to legend, about 100 years ago the young woman lived here on a coffee plantation with her family. When World War I broke out, all the Germans here were taken prisoner by the British soldiers. Only a young woman of about eighteen was able to flee into the forest, soon got lost, however, and fell to her death from a cliff. People began to take flowers and incense sticks there. Later, Chinese workers built a small temple on the hill where an urn with the ashes of the young woman, a Catholic cross and a stone from the place where the body was found were kept. The belief is that the spirit of the young woman brings luck to the one praying. It is also said that disrespectful behaviour in the temple is punished, that a shadow is seen, that one suddenly begins to speak German...

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