Informal religious shrines: Curating community assets in Hong Kong and Singapore

King Chung Siu, Thomas Kong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-104
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of the Inclusive Museum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Ageing
  • Ecomuseum
  • Informal repository
  • Place-making
  • Public curation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Museology

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