The Shrine of the Serene Light is a beautiful old Chinese shrine which was, at one point, among the finest secret sites of Phuket Town. Formerly only accessible through a non-descript alley, the entrance has now been widened and made significantly grander, making it now one of the most popular shrines in Phuket.
Founded in 1891 by the Hokkien Chinese descendants of the Tan Luan Jae family, the Shrine of the Serene Light – also known as Sang Tham Shrine, with a number of other name variations depending on the language and dialect – is modest in size, but extravagant in appearance. It clearly shows its heritage in its distinctive architectural design, with features common in Hokkien Chinese shrines such as the terracotta-tiled roof and single-storey construction.
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A place of sanctity and wordship to Chinese deities, its location in a small courtyard surrounded by tall buildings make it a peaceful and quiet place in the heart of the busy city. At least, it does when the special structures for letting off fire crackers are not in use, such as during Chinese New Year or the Vegetarian Festival! Over a century old, the shrine was largely unknown to the outside world until it was renovated in 1999 and then opened to the public in February 2013.
Photography is now not allowed inside the main part of the Shrine of the Serene Light, so you cannot take pictures of the fantastic Si Yin Gui murals, stained by a hundred years of burning candles and incense in veneration of the deities they depict. You will also find a densely-packed array of small statuettes and idols and, usually, offerings of fresh fruit.
The whole edifice is extremely bright and colourful, with intricate designs on the two arches which take you from the street to the shrine, as well as on the buildings which surround the courtyard. The interior of the shrine, in particular, is given a real mystical feel by the dim light of Chinese lanterns and candles.
Entrance to the Shrine of the Serene Light is free, but donations are welcome. There is no obvious donation box, however, so you will generally find small stacks of coins balanced on the backs of the lions which guard the entrance to the shrine. You will also find a sign there asking you to remove your shoes before entering, as well as others inside asking you to refrain from taking photos.
Shrine of the Serene Light
- Location: Next to On On Hotel on Phang Nga Road, Phuket Town