Where Gods Are Born - Extended version

Singapore, Singapore

Experience hosted by Chwee Lian

2.5 hours, Hosted in English
Committed to safety
This host committed to Airbnb’s COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Up to 10 people

What you'll do

Go behind the scenes at Say Tian Hng, a Taoist effigy-making shop established in 1896.

Amid Singapore's skyscrapers and hipster bars, there is a quiet shop filled from floor to ceiling with wooden statues of Taoist deities, some as small as an iPhone, some as large as a chair.

Say Tian Hng ("Heaven's Garden" in Hokkien) is one of the oldest heritage businesses in Singapore, now into its 4th generation.

We will share with you stories from the Taoist pantheon, which is made up of hundreds of deities, comprising monks and magistrates, boys and beasts, warlords and maidens - and the timeless values they symbolise.

We will learn how Grandma Ng brought up 7 kids while running the business, the impact of Singapore's rapid urban renewal on this heritage business, and what the 4th generation is doing today to reinvent the business.

We will also learn about the craft of effigy-making that has been passed down over generations, one that uses secret blueprints, sandalwood ash dough, marble slabs, Thai gold leaves, bamboo sticks and wood from the camphor tree that grows to 1,000 years old.

This is the Extended version of the "Where Gods Are Born" tour, which means it is conducted by the family of artisans and includes a short hands-on session on effigy-making.
Go behind the scenes at Say Tian Hng, a Taoist effigy-making shop established in 1896.

Amid Singapore's skyscrapers and hipster bars, there is a quiet shop filled from floor to ceiling with wooden statues of Taoist deities, some as small as an iPhone, some as large as a chair.

Say Tian Hng ("Heaven's Garden" in Hokkien) is one of the oldest heritage businesses in Singapore, now into its 4th generation.

We will sha…

Meet your host, Chwee Lian

Host on Airbnb since 2017
  • 83 Reviews
  • Identity verified
I am a 90-year-old great-grandma who runs this Taoist effigy-making shop. This is where I have worked since the age of 18 and raised 7 children. I don't speak English, so my son and grandsons will be your main hosts for this Experience. With their help, I will share my life story with you and do a demonstration of the craft of effigy-making.
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From $45
/ person
Availability for this experience is rare.

Where you'll be

The shop is a working space filled from floor to ceiling with statues of Taoist effigies. You'll see our traditional tools and effigies in various stages of completion.

Rated 4.94 out of 5 from 83 reviews.

Jean
August 2021
The workshop was educational and refreshing. The storytelling was fantastic, and uncle who demonstrated the hands-on session for us is an extremely skilled craftsman. I'm thrilled that we could still learn about taoist effigy making in this age. I also got to feast my eyes on the many deities sitting in the shop. They are so beautiful and I feel like each one tells a story!
Yun-Shan
December 2019
Have been wanting to join this experience for a while and finally had the chance! The shop is a cozy family business and we got to meet the various members of the family. We learned more about Taoism and the way the stories of the various deities was introduced was creative and engaging. The hands on activity at the end allowed us the opportunity to experience how decorations are made on the deity statues. A truly dying art! It was certainly a memorable experience! Highly recommended for both tourists to Singapore and Singaporeans alike!
Grace
December 2019
A very meaningful experience, even for us locals. Grandma Chwee Lian's generous sharing of her professional and personal stories, and Yong's historical and cultural approach to explaining the religious craft made the session very accessible and engaging. The whole family of 4 generations was also on-hand to guide my daughter and I through the effigy-making , which added a familial intimacy to the session. Thoroughly enjoyable for both kids and adults (my daughter recommends kids to bring their patience along, as the hands-on session requires lots of it!)
Eileen
October 2019
Very unique experience. The hands-on part was challenging and engaging. The host was friendly and shared a lot of the culture and history.
Carmen
October 2019
What a magical afternoon ... I feel honored to have met this family; have learned about their lives and profession in a way that I felt like at home ... very personal experience , especially due to the wonderful grandma ... I will keep her in my heart!! Thank you again!!
Cassandra
October 2019
If you're looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience in Singapore, this is an absolutely amazing experience everyone should try. Say Tian Hng is the last of its kind in Singapore, a country were modernisation happened so rapidly that certain traditions were left behind. Super interesting insight into the behind-the-scenes of an industry and practice we would otherwise not have access to (witness). The host and family were incredibly friendly, very welcoming and we left the tour with more than a deeper understanding of a culture and practice but also some meaningful connections as well. We also had the chance to try our hands on making a dragon at the end which was really fun. Overall super worth it, once in a lifetime experience everyone must try.

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    Things to know

    Cancellation policy

    Any experience can be canceled and fully refunded within 24 hours of purchase, or at least 7 days before the experience starts.

    Guest requirements

    Up to 10 guests ages 10 and up can attend.