Poh Ern Shih (Translated as the “Temple of Thanksgiving”) was founded in 1954 by Mr Lee Choon Seng, the first managing director of OCBC bank. Mr Lee used his personal funds to erect Poh Ern Shih on Chwee Chian Hill for the purpose of guiding the souls of all who had perished on the killing fields of Pasir Panjang during Second World War.
Poh Ern Shih is one of the few Mahayana temples in Singapore dedicated to the Ksitigarbha (Dizang) Bodhisttva who liberates the souls of the deceased. However, in line with the open-mindedness that Poh Ern Shih espouses, Poh Ern Shih’s first Abbot, the Venerable Sumangalo, was actually an American Theravada monk, and not one from Mahayana tradition.
Constructed initially as a modest single storey building, Poh Ern Shih under went a massive reconstruction in 1998 to accommodate its growing and aging devotees. Aligned with the times, Poh Ern Shih was being renovated with the elderly firmly in mind, from the wheelchair friendly ramp for wheelchair bound devotees to access the upper reaches of the temple, to the smallest details like the toilet sinks which have easy to turn handles for those suffering from arthritis.