Bird Corner & Former Hu Lu Temple

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Bird Corner and Former Hulu Temple
The junction of Seng Poh Road and Tiong Bahru Road was one of the most important crossroads in Tiong Bahru. This is where the main arterial road leading from Outram Road into the estate meets Tiong Bahru. This was also where many residents as well as visitors from other parts of Singapore used to gather, to perform religious rituals at a Chinese temple, check out the offerings at a nearby bird shop or enjoy a cup of coffee with friends while listening to the sweet melodies of their feathered companions.

Many locals would remember the site of this first marker as the location of a very popular bird corner. But the origin of this bird corner actually lies across the road, on a small plot of land now occupied by the Nostalgia Hotel where there used to be very popular pet bird shop. The owner of this shop hung many birdcages containing songbirds outside his premises and this myriad of sounds and colours attracted many tourists and curious onlookers, making the area very lively and crowded. 

The hustle and bustle of the pet bird shop drew the notice of the owner of Wah Heng, a traditional coffee shop on the ground floor of the row of flats that now houses the Link Hotel. Sometime in the early 1980s, the owner of Wah Heng, seeing how the birdcages attracted high traffic across the road, erected a metal structure outside his coffeeshop to allow bird owners to hang their birdcages while they sipped coffee and chit-chatted nearby. This was an astute move as many bird owners made a beeline for the coffeeshop to show off their birds, and enjoy their calls and songs, while having coffee or snacks with friends at the same time. Before long, the sight of so many birdcages and the cacophony of birdsong drew much attention from locals and tourists who would congregate at the corner to soak in the atmosphere or just to gawk. The well-known American jazz flautist Herbie Mann (1930–2003) even made a special trip to this corner in 1984 to play his flute to the accompaniment of the birdsongs.

In 2003, when renovations were carried out to convert the former SIT flats into the Link Hotel, the original bird corner was closed. In 2008, the owners of the hotel decided to reopen the structure for hanging birdcages.

Just beside the pet bird shop across the road was another major landmark of Tiong Bahru. This was an old Chinese temple known popularly as Hu Lu Miao (葫芦庙) or literally, ‘Gourd Temple’. This odd name was the result of a bright red gourd-shaped furnace that was used for burning joss paper located just outside the temple. The actual name of the temple was Weizhen Miao (威镇庙), literally the Temple of Awe. 

Some old residents believe that the temple had been standing since the early 1800s but the building was most likely constructed sometime around 1918, according to its caretaker who told a visitor in 2006 that the temple was almost 90 years old. According to two old stone tablets in the former temple, the temple was founded in 1909 and expanded in 1918 by migrants from Nan’an, a county in Fujian province, China, and dedicated to their patron deity Guangze Zunwang. The inscriptions on the tablets also noted that the temple was located in a taro garden and the land had been provided by Lim Chwee Chian (1864–1923), a respected merchant and chairman of the Ee Hoe Hean Club for wealthy businessmen at Bukit Pasoh Road.

The Hu Lu Temple was frequented by many residents of the area as well as people from other parts of Singapore. This Temple was sold by its owners and demolished in 2006 to make way for the Nostalgia Hotel that now occupies its site.