Field trip time! Today I went out to one of the smaller islands that are part of Singapore to check out a spot of local lore and have some kampung style life (kampung is Malaysian Bahasa for village).  Pulau Ubin is the Nature Island, and throwback island of Singapore. To get there you take a bumboat from a ferry terminal and just jump off on the old pier. Once there the usual course of activity is to rent a bike, explore and then end up back in the kampung for a beer and some seafood. I went with my husband and a new friend we will call the Swedish Venom Man (his work involves snake venom! Also everyone needs a good nickname ).

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bumboat between Singapore and Pulau Ubin

We had a few items on our agenda for this trip out of the city, but the first thing I wanted to do was check out the German Girls Shrine. There are a few pages online about it (see end of post) but the one I read first was the Atlas Obscure one . After reading around a little more there seems to be some disagreement in the story, but they all have the same general outline.

Here is the story as I have pieced together from reading several different sites. Before WWI there were several coffee plantations on Pulau Ubin (pulau means island). The plantation in question was owned by a German family who may or may not have had the names Daniel Brandt and Hermann Muhlingans but not much more is known about them. When WWI broke out and Britain declared war on Germany, British soldiers interned the plantation owners, but apparently his 18 year old daughter escaped.

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sign on the road pointing the way to the shrine in Chinese, English and German.

However, her body was found the next day in the bottom of a quarry, and it is thought that she became disoriented or lost and accidentally fell to her death. From here things get hazy. She was found by Boyanese plantation workers who supposedly covered her body and left flowers. Her ghost was apparently seen around the island as well. Later she was moved and given a burial at the top of the quarry hill. It is thought that she was respected because her parents had been kind to their workers. Her grave site was known to be visited in this spot from the 1920-70s. In 1974 she was exhumed for the expansion of the quarry. A local who lived on the island at the time reports to have seen some human hair and her cross when they did. She was placed in an expensive urn which was placed in a hut where the current German Girl Shrine is located.

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The shrine building and yellow joss paper burner (I think) with the burnt offering table visible in front of the shrine building

It is rumored that the original urn was stolen and the one there today is another one. It is also reported to be empty so where the German Girl and her cross are today is unknown. How this girl thought to be catholic turned into a Taoist deity is unknown. But she was worshipers that come from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. She is said to bring luck in gambling. Girly things are left at her shrine.

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inside the shrine. Main altar in back with the perfume (Florida water) offerings and nail polish and lipstick. The urn can be seen to the right of the statue. Fruit and candles on the front table.

So this is the story. We went to the shrine and it turns out that yearly in 2015 the old yellow hut was replaced with a shiny new hardwood building (with CCTV). It is beautiful but I was a little disappointed because the old one looked so interesting! Still it was an interesting place to visit.

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The Urn and bottles of Florida Water along with cosmetics left for the German Girl

There seems to be two spots in the area, a large stone, and the temple itself. Now I am starting to get used to the structure of temples in this area of the world, so this one seemed pretty standard but with an extra table. There was the main altar in back (no creepy doll like promised but a gorgeous wood carving) and an offering table inside, and a table outside for burnt offerings. I assume the large yellow structure next to the building is for larger burned offerings like the joss paper. Next there was a large rock with smaller shines behind it. I do not know the story of this rock but again from reading around it seems like it is from the original burial at the quarry hill.

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The rock shrine. This is the one I think is from her original grave site at the top of the quarry hill.

The offerings on the altar itself were neatly arranged nail polish, Florida water, and lipstick. The urn in question was there as well with a cross around it. There were also some visitors in the form of a frog on the sign and a gecko under one of the flags.

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gecko hiding under the flags around the doorway to the shrine.

I hope you enjoyed that bit of Singapore Lore, and the photos!

~ Kathleen

 

Links:

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/german-girl-shrine

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/singapore/sights/religious/german-girl-shrine

http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/heritage/ubin/stories/2004/05/mystery-girl-of-ubin.html

http://remembersingapore.org/2012/10/13/german-deity-at-ubin/

Tour of the old shrine: https://youtu.be/Nw_dQmej8ts

http://www.wildsingapore.com/ubin/places/temple.htm

upgrade: http://pulauubinstories.blogspot.sg/2015/02/another-facelift-for-german-girl-shrine.html

 

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