The Tang temple building design by Ven Shi Fa Zhao, together with the China consultant Landscape Architecture Corporation of China (LACC), incorporated many timber, stone and bronze features. However, in view of future maintenance and safety considerations, we had to substitute materials where necessary, whilst keeping to the desired visual impact.
Walking along South Bridge Road or anywhere outside the temple, you would sense the temple building is so grand, colourfully striking, pleasingly proportionate, exquisite and unique. As you approach the temple, you will notice the fine detailing and many exquisite external features. It is so quiet, peaceful and beautiful that you will feel drawn towards the attraction to find out more about the temple and the Buddha.
In keeping with the Tang dynasty design, there is a heavy reliance on timber finishes to accentuate the external facade. However, in view of the weather conditions and to minimize maintenance, we had to search extensively for a suitable timber.
The timber selected for BTRTM is called "Yellow Balau" - a hard, dense and heavy tropical hardwood, originating from Kalimantan. It is yellowish brown, with an interlocking grain and a moderately fine and even texture. Durable, knot-free hardwood, it requires no treatment due to its natural resistance to fungal decay and insect attack. It will weather well and maintain its strength and durability. Surface cracks are rare but may occur over time, yet will not affect the strength.
The 2,000 cubic meters of Yellow Balau logs were shipped from Kalimantan to Singapore Hock Hin Leong Timber Trading Pte. Ltd. Sungei Kadut's sawmill. The timber was then specially cut and prepared according to the required dimensions and readied for shipping. A blessing ceremony was conducted on 9 November 2005 by Ven Shi Pu Hong and our Sangha.
The processed timber from Singapore was shipped to the Zhejiang Yuefeng Construction Pte Ltd timber sawmill plant in Zhuji, Zhejiang, China, in 10 numbers of 40-foot containers. There the timber was cut and shaped into columns, roof rafters, dougongs, windows, doors, banisters, etc. These finished timber products arrived progressively in Singapore from April 2006.
The Zhuji plant blessing ceremony was held on 5 November ,led by Venerable Shi Ming Lang and Sangha.
A team of up to 70 Chinese craftsmen were sent to Singapore for the installation of these timber structures and roof tiles. During installation, the craftsmen had to work from scaffoldings at great heights under various weather conditions to fit these various pieces of timber, like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle.
Lacquer After installation, the next team then moved in to sand the timber and coat it with successive layers of 7 layers of linen and 5 layers of plaster, before finishing with 3 coats of special Chinese lacquer.
The special lacquer was specially produced from natural resins and coloured to the exact red and green needed. It was produced in Wuhan. The base wood had to be smoothened and strengthened with successive layers of plaster and linen, and smoothened at every stage. Then the lacquer was applied in very thin layers between drying and sanding stages. The result is a very uniform protective layer that also add beautiful colours to the temple. The long lasting sheen helps to keep the temple looking fresh and new in all weather conditions.
The lacquerwork is Chinese in origin. It is a varnish resin derived from a tree indigenous to China, species Toxicodendron vernicifluum, commonly known as the varnish tree. These lacquers produce very hard, durable finishes that are both beautiful and very resistant to damage by water, acid, alkali or abrasion. The active ingredient of the resin is urushiol, a mixture of various phenols suspended in water, plus a few proteins. Raw lacquer can be "coloured" by the addition of small amounts of iron oxides, giving red, green or black depending on the oxide. There is some evidence that its use is even older than 8,000 years from archeological digs in China.
Traditional Chinese Building Features Dougong (Bracket Set) Dougong is a unique Chinese wooden architecture component used to support the weight of roof and eaves in order for the eaves to stretch out further. According to archaeological excavations, the using of Dougong first appears on the picture bricks of Han Dynasty. The huge Dougong of Tang Dynasty were real components to support weight, showing exactly the magnificence of Tang architectures. In Qing Dynasty they became decorations. Dougong is composed of birch and mortise without any nails, reflecting the wisdom and skills of ancient Chinese carpenters.
Wooden Banister was used to protect pedestal of ancient buildings. Detailed descriptions of Tang's Wooden Banister can be found on The Mogao Caves, Dunhuang. The Tang design is simple and elegant serving a very practical purpose of guiding and protecting visitors. The vertical protruding column was often capped with a bronze decorative cap, which also helps to protect this vulnerable area from visitors' touch.
Zhileng Window is the window style of architecture of Tang and Song Dynasties. As glass appeared in Tang Dynasty, wooden staff was applied in windows for the purpose of lighting and guarding against theft. Seldom used afterwards with the advancing of technique and materials, Zhileng Window became a feature of architecture in Tang and Song Dynasties.
Columns The identifying trademark of Tang Dynasty columns was the subtle tapering of the column at top. As the base of the column would be weakened by the frequent tropical rains in Singapore, it was decided to incorporate a concrete column for weight bearing purpose and to wrap the concrete with yellow balau for decoration to match the temple design.
Stone Pillar Base Stone Pillar Base was used as the fundamental supporting component of ancient architecture to support the total weight of building and roof. In Tang Dynasty there were a variety of Pillar Bases.
These stone pillar bases were hand carved by Yuefeng in Fujian, after several variations. They have an inverted lotus relief with a simple yet solid feel.
Green Stone Tiles Our tiles were specially quarried. These are the best grade ones and are 'hard fought' by our staff stationed at the quarry.
Exterior Green Stone Tiles These tiles are also carved into drain covers with a special lotus design.
Bronze Rafter Cap Below the roof tiles, you will see the uniquely red supporting rafter beams capped by gilt bronze ornaments. These yellow lotus patterns below the ceiling, is so natural and peaceful. These fine bronze caps lighten the straight lines and help protect these rafter beams. They were designed by Ven Shi FaZhao and produced by Yuefeng in Wenzhou, Ruiann.
Each sponsorship of the Gilt Bronze Rafter Cap was $38(Small) and $50(Large) with 4,281 pieces and 6,946 pieces available respectively for sponsorship