Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum in Singapore

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The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is hard to miss: It’s a four-story high, vivid red-and-green, Tang-styled Chinese Buddhist temple, and it sits smack dab in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown.

The temple is actually not that old; it was completed in 2007 at a cost of S$62 million. It prides itself on the extensively-researched accuracy and authenticity on its design and architecture.

Which is all very nice, but let’s be honest: Singapore is chock full of Chinese buildings and Buddhist temples. A lot of them are unique too, so what makes this specific temple particularly remarkable?

Construction of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Here’s the bottom line: What makes the architecture of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (BTRTM) truly impressive on the outside is that it’s the only building in the entire country that is lacquered, rather than painted.

This was possible because of the wood they chose – “Yellow Balau” – a hard, dense and heavy tropical hardwood originating from Kalimantan, Borneo. The wood is durable, finely grained, knot-free, and naturally resistant to fungal decay and insect attack. They used a total of 2000 sqm of timber on the temple’s exterior. It was carefully sanded and then strengthened with successive layers of linen and plaster (7 of linen and 5 of plaster), smoothed and sanded at every stage.

Time consuming, to say the least!

Entrance to Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Finally, they finished with three coats of a special Chinese lacquer to protects the temple from Singapore’s harsh weather conditions. The walls and trim were carefully selected shades of red and green, respectively.

Round, bronze ornament caps protect the straight, supporting rafter beams. The yellow gilt on the lotus-patterned ornaments nicely complements all the red and green.

Detail of exterior of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

What’s inside Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

The temple was closed for a special event when we arrived so we weren’t able to go inside. We were really disappointed, because as the best Buddhist cultural complex in the region, it’s one of the top “must see” sights in Singapore, and with only one day in Singapore we couldn’t return the next day.

The temple features many facets of Buddhist arts and culture, most notably relics of the Buddha. The most prized is reputed to be one of his teeth. It’s housed in a massive, solid gold stupa, created from donations of gold jewelry from devotees.

ⓘ TIP:  Be aware that photography and video is not permitted on the 4th floor. This is where the Buddha tooth is housed.

There are other things to see besides the temple. Highlights include the Buddhist Culture Museum, Eminent Sangha Museum, Sacred Light Hall, and a Theatre for cultural performances. Also, be sure to go up to the roof. It houses a giant Buddhist prayer wheel and the Dendrobium Buddha Tooth, an orchid named for the BTRTM. Both are notable things to see in the temple.

Inside the temple area with large golden god statues.

Visiting information

  • Hours: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is open daily from 7:00 am – 7:00 pm, but some parts close at 6 pm, so get there early.
  • Admission: Free, though donations for upkeep are appreciated.
  • Dress code: Wear appropriate attire to show respect (no bare backs/shoulders, shorts, mini-skirts, etc.)
  • Facilities: Simple vegetarian fare is served in the basement dining hall. Otherwise, no food (or pets) inside the Temple.
  • Photography: Non-flash photography is permitted everywhere, with the exception of the Relic Shrine.
  • For more photos, see our Singapore photo galleries.
  • Tours: Take a free guided tour of the temple on Saturdays. Tours in Mandarin are held at 10am. English language tours are held at 2pm. Preregistration is required. Details here.
  • Read more about BTRTM on Wikipedia.
  • Read our article that explains how to spend one day in Singapore.
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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to around 60 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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