Informal Religious Shrines: Curating Community Assets in Hong Kong and Singapore

By King-chung Siu and Thomas Kong.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

An interesting feature of the Asian urban landscape is the presence of Chinese religious altars that may be found lying next to a tree, in a discrete section of public space or at a road junction. These altars and statues of deities are usually items left behind by previous owners who have relocated to another area. To the older Chinese generation, “house gods” or religious statues formerly acquired for home collections are not to be discarded disrespectfully. In changing circumstances, when their owners need to leave “family ties” behind, these statues are either given to another “caretaker” or relocated to auspicious places to serve some publicly meaningful function. This practice gives rise to the makeshift or informal shrines in public areas that are not uncommon in highly urbanised and Westernised Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Seen from a museological perspective, these are “public collections”, driven not by the ideologies of professional curators, but by a sense of cultural religiosity and the social purposes of the populace. This paper aims to re-interpret current curatorial practices by explicating some of the typologies and features of these informal repositories and their custodianship. It also explores the curatorial implications of these community assets in relation to the ageing population and to place-making in the two Asian cities of Hong Kong and Singapore.

Keywords: Ageing, Ecomuseum, Informal Repository, Place-Making, Public Curation

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.89-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.494MB).

King-chung Siu

Associate Professor, School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, -, China

Siu is an art/design commentator, installation artist, independent curator and a founding member of the Community Museum Project ( He is an associate professor at the School of Design of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has been exploring – with students, teachers, designers, artists and community partners – ways to initiate collaborative projects that endeavour to visualise and disseminate local knowledge and practices in public forms such as exhibitions, cultural tourism and publications.

Thomas Kong

Director, Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Kong is an architect and an associate professor in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the principal of Studio Chronotope, a research-based studio with a strong focus on Asian urbanism. His work and teaching is centred on architecture and the city as anthropological objects that carry multiple layers of histories and meanings, which are revealed, amplified and shaped into certain possibilities. He is currently a visiting associate professor in the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore.


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