李俊承 Lee Choon Seng


Lee Choon Seng
1888—5 June 1966

“Lee grew up as a Taoist, but converted to Buddhism in adulthood, with Venerable Hong Choon, the abbot of Kong Meng San Temple, acting as his spiritual mentor.”

“During an OCA assignment to the Endau Settlement in Malaysia, his convoy was ambushed by the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army and everyone in the convoy was shot. Only Lee survived, as a bullet hit a Buddhist medallion on his chest; this inspired him to spread Buddhism in Singapore.”

Contributions to Buddhism in Singapore

Poh Ern Shih Temple

During World War II, many Japanese soldiers, British soldiers and civilians died in the crossfire and bombings of the Battle of Pasir Panjang at Chwee Chian Hill. On advice from Venerable Hong Choon, Lee purchased the hill from the British colonial government, with the aim of building a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, to liberate the spirits of the people who were sacrificed during the Japanese invasion. In 1950, Lee incorporated the 46,938 square feet (4,360.7 m2) Poh Ern Shih Temple (Hokkien for “temple of thanksgiving”) as a limited company without shares,[17] and in April 1954, he officiated its opening.”

Singapore Buddhist Lodge

In 1943, the Singapore Buddhist Lodge (新加坡佛教居士林) was set up with about 100 members, mostly from the Chinese social elite. Its fixed address, a double-storey house at 26 Blair Road, was donated by Lee, who also contributed S$1,000 for furniture and other expenses, a considerable sum at that time.[10] The Lodge grew to over 2000 members by 1946, so Zhang Jiamei and Zhong Tianshui decided to rent bigger premises at 17 Kim Yam Road. In 1950, Zhang and Lee donated S$10,000 and started a drive to raise funds to purchase the rented premises.”

Singapore Buddhist Federation

The rate of growth of Buddhist temples and Buddhists doubled after the war, but without an umbrella organisation, each temple, headed by a chief monk or management committee, had its own way of conducting its affairs and relied on itself for financial support. Lee invited representatives from all Chinese temples to the Singapore Buddhist Lodge to discuss the formation of an umbrella organisation, and on 30 October 1949, the Singapore Buddhist Federation was registered, with Lee elected as its chairman and Venerable Hong Choon as its vice-chairman.[19] In its first decade, its notable achievements included having Vesak Day gazetted as a public holiday in 1955, getting government approval to set up a Buddhist cemetery of about 110 acres (0.45 km2) at Choa Chu Kang Road and managing two schools, Maha Bodhi School and Mee Toh School.”

The Chinese Temple in Sarnath

In the early 1930s, Lee learned that Venerable Tao Chiai wanted to restore a dilapidated Chinese temple in Sarnath (the deer park where the Buddha gave his first sermon after his enlightenment) that a Chinese emperor of the Tang Dynasty built in the 8th century AD. Venerable Tao Chiai died before he could accomplish this task; however, his chief disciple, Venerable Teh Yue, continued the restoration project, which Lee personally funded. Lee went on a pilgrimage to India with Venerable Teh Yue and brought along an English engineer, A. H. King, to assess and assist the restoration works. This temple still stands today in Sarnath and is called simply The Chinese Temple in Sarnath.[20]

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