Sam Poh Footprint Temple, Batu Maung (10 June, 2006)
Sam Poh Footprint Temple (GPS: 5.28505, 100.29078), or Tokong Jejak Kaki Sam Poh, is a small, recently-built temple close to the water's edge at the small fishing village of Batu Maung, on the southeast tip of Penang Island. The temple, which grew out of a shrine over the water's edge, was built to venerate a "footprint" in the rock.
The Sam Poh Temple is known in Chinese as 三寶宮, and in Penang Hokkien as Sam3 Poh1 Keong1, literally, "Palace of the Three Jewels". The name "Three Jewels" (Sam3 Poh4, 三寶) refers to the Admiral Zhenghe. The footprint is believed by devotees to have been that of Sam Poh, the local name for Admiral Zhenghe, the Muslim eunuch that travelled here from the 15th century on behalf of the Chinese emperor.
For many years, the footprint was neglected, save for an altar and a few joss sticks. Recently however, a new temple was built over it. The footprint measures 0.85 meters - a colossal 33 inches. There were indeed historical accounts that Cheng Ho was a giant of a man.
View of the Sam Poh Footprint Temple from the fishermen plankway. (10 June, 2006)
While the local Chinese community believe the footprint belongs to Sam Poh, local Indians believed that it was that of Hanuman, the monkey god, who left it in Batu Maung when he was leaping over the Indian Ocean. Local Malays however believed that the footprint belonged to Gedembai, a giant that was feared by the local people. It was just one of four Gedembai footprints in Penang, the other ones are behind the Kampung Mesjid in Bayan Lepas, another at Pulau Aman, and one more at Pulau Jerejak.
It is believed that six hundred years ago, Admiral Cheng Ho left the port at Suzhou and set sail for the Nanyang (southern seas) and discover the world in a mighty flotilla of giant ships. Unlike Western powers, the Chinese did not intend to colonise but rather to ensure the various principalities paid tribute to the Chinese emperor and acknowledge his sovereignty over the lands. Cheng Ho made several voyages between 1405 and 1433, and there is great likelihood that Parameswara met him when he stopped at Malacca, as is documented in the history of Malacca.
Archway of the Sam Poh Footprint Temple. (3 January, 2005)
The "footprint" may be a carved monument created by the Admiral Zheng He to mark his having passed through the area. He left his mark, so to speak, by stepping on to Penang Island, but then having people actually carve the footprint on the rock to commemorate the visit.
The Sam Poh Footprint Temple was built over the original altar around 1993-1994 at a cost of RM300,000. It is just one of many temples in Malaysia attributed to the legendery Muslim eunich from China. Other Sam Poh temples include the Poh San Teng Temple in Malacca which I believe has been erroneously attributed to Admiral Cheng Ho, and the Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple in Ipoh, and the Sam Poh Temple in Cameron Highlands.
Interior of the Sam Poh Footprint Temple. (3 January, 2005)
Footprint of Sam Poh Kong venerated by the believers. (3 January, 2005)
Updates on the Sam Poh Footprint Temple
23 July, 2012: The proximity of the construction site of a retail-cum-residential development project is causing much concern to heritage enthusiasts. The Chor Soo Kong Temple about 150 m away from this temple was recently demolished for the Southbay Plaza project, and no knowledge is available whether or not this temple will also be affected.
Sam Poh Footprint Temple is on the map of Batu Maung
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