I saw the Monkey God Tree

I made a trip to Jurong West St 42 last Sunday to check out the much-hyped Monkey God Tree.

It was an educational and amusing excursion.

Of course, I tried to look normal and not make any funny faces because the throngs of devotees crowding the street were quite serious in their worship of deity trees.

So I approached the scene with an open mind.

We weren’t sure exactly where the site was, so we followed the traffic. A most convenient traffic pile-up led us to our destination.

There was a lot of impatient honking. I’ll bet if I were a resident there and had to put up with this traffic while going home every day, I would be wearing out my car horn, too.

As we inched nearer, I saw it!

Not the tree. The people.

WTF?!

Wow.

Stepping out of the car to join this throng was quite a scary thing.

Oh, yes. For the sake of my foreign readers, allow me to briefly explain.

There’s this tree in Singapore, got hit by a car, shed a piece of bark and revealed a monkey shape on its trunk. People claimed that the Monkey God of Chinese mythology had come to Singapore, so they started praying to the tree. [Click here to read the whole story]

So, this fabled tree was what I was out searching for.

It wasn’t very hard to find, as you can tell from the above pictures.

The first thing that raised a smile on my face was the colour of opportunism.

It came in red and orange and blue and green.

What a beloved sight of Singapore.

Anywhere with a crowd, you can be sure to see these ice cream uncles helping Singaporeans quench their thirst.

But what’s remarkable was that there were about six ice cream vendors on that one street alone.

I didn’t buy an ice cream because I was too busy trying to figure the trees out.

I had only expected to see two “deity trees”. But when I arrived, I found that at least six trees were being worshipped. Apparently, after the Monkey God’s appearance, other gods starting popping up at neighbouring trees.

This is what a worshipped tree looks like.

This tree is supposed to be Lord Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god. I don’t quite see the resemblance, though.

Next, I saw this tree surrounded by a bunch of folks staring up at its crown.

Half the crowd there was trying to describe where and what they were seeing, while the other half were perplexedly trying to see it.

I was one of the perplexed for a whole 10 minutes. I listened while many an excited auntie and uncle tried but failed to describe the exact spot of interest.

One of the funniest conversations I heard came from two very young, plumpish ladies.

For reference, this was what everyone was looking up at:

[Translated from Mandarin] Girl 1: Where is it?
Girl 2: (Pointing) There!
Girl 1: Where is there?
Girl 2: (Pointing) There!
Girl 1: I know! But where is there?
Girl 2: (Pointing) There!!
Girl 1: You keep saying there but it’s such a big tree!
Girl 2: (Pointing) There lah!!
Girl 1: I’m trying to see where you’re pointing but I can’t see it!
Girl 2: (Pointing) There there there!!
Girl 1: Where???
Girl 2: The branch there lah!!
Girl 1: The tree got so many branches!!! Which one??
Girl 2: That small branch lah!!
Girl 1: Got so many small branches!!! Which one??
Girl 2: Aiyoh!! The shape there lah!
Girl 1: What shape?? The whole tree everywhere got shape!!
Girl 2: The white white part, there!
Girl 1: So many white parts!! Which one?
Girl 2: (Pointing) There! That one!
Girl 1: I can’t see lah!!!

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to strangle Girl 2.

They finally walked off as Girl 2 tried frustratedly to find another angle from which to exercise her amazing pointing finger.

I continued standing there, looking up, waiting for another stranger to describe it better so I could see what the heck was going on.

I heard about five different descriptions before I heard one which made sense and told me exactly where to look. Then, I saw it.

I don’t know what’s so hard about describing a spot. It took me all of 10 seconds to successfully describe it to the Goonfather (who had earlier wandered off in boredom while I stood by the same tree for 10 minutes, determined to find out what everyone was looking at).

This was it:

It’s a shape of some say Buddha, some say Kwan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), on the bark.

And I had wasted a good eight minutes staring at leaves and branches because people weren’t describing it properly.

I’ve outlined the shape so you can see it clearer:

And there’s a better picture in The New Paper report.

Hmm, ok. I must admit the shape does look a bit like Buddha and Kwan Yin statues. But I wonder who was the first bloke who decided to go staring up random tree trunks to find deity-shaped anomalies.

I’m not quite convinced that this means some deity has decided to favour this tree or take up residence in it or whatever it is people are thinking.

It’s just a random shape, isn’t it? Like how you see random shapes in clouds and random shapes in… just about anywhere.

I’m sure if I had the time and inclination, I could find other deity shapes in any random tree in Singapore.

The other trees on Jurong West St 42 which have been set up as shrines are even less convincing. They just take any bump on the tree and claim that it’s this god or that god. Totally weird.

But I have to say the Monkey God Tree is something else.

This really does look like a monkey.

I don’t think it looks like the Monkey God, though. It looks more like a random monkey at the zoo.

And there’s so much litter around the shrine.

If the Monkey God were really staying here, I’m embarrassed on behalf of my fellow countrymen.

Lord Ganesha has a neater shrine.

But I guess the Monkey God appeared earlier, so his tree has had more time to accumulate more mess.

This guy was standing by the monkey tree giving out joss sticks to anyone interested in praying to the tree. Awfully nice of him.

Well, I don’t know what to make of this craze.

The Straits Times has a good article on this, with quotes from different camps of people — believers, scientists, tree experts and assorted professors. Read it here.

But I think the best reading material comes from a blog. This guy has made this “Journey to Jurong West” comic spoof and I think it’s quite charming.

I’m kind of on the fence about this because I’m agnostic. Maybe something supernatural is really at work. Maybe it’s just the overactive imagination of a bunch of heartlanders. I don’t know.

It doesn’t really matter, does it? Either way, it’s quite entertaining and it’s always good to see something different once in a while.

What do you think?

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43 thoughts on “I saw the Monkey God Tree

  1. i used to live at St. 41

    looking at your pics, the area is now sooooooooooooo busy. no more peace and tranquility!

    lets do a bet when this hype will end. :P

  2. when humans are desperate, they become willing to believe anything and everything.

    this perfectly illustrates my point. even a tree can look like a god now. religion is going down the drain.

    and yes, im agnostic too.

  3. lol.. the auntie conversation is really funnny… they really so goondu ah, if it was me … I would give her an undertaker tombstone move. Really hoh, from this event we can see why people can be so easily herded around like cows.. guilibility rules the day …

  4. Well if Jesus can appear on toast, in oil slicks and tomatoes, I guess that a Monkey God appearing on a tree makes just as much sense. Quite why Ganesha and Buddha would perch in trees nearby isn’t clear… Always good to note that the spirit of entrepreneurship is not dead in Singapore after all, though.

  5. I was about to mention Jesus-on-a-toast too.

    Well, anyway in times of desperation as Jesta has so rightly mentioned, people tend to look for something to hope for and to hold on to.

    Disregard what the Strait Times Index telling that it is going up and up and up or our gahmen telling us that the economy is doing well and how many jobs that they have created.

    This scene is a tell-tale sign that, something underneath all the rosy economic numbers provided by the “scholars”, is not going right.

  6. This is so hilarious….As long as people can get 4D numbers, they’ll pray to whatever…..And when one place has some animal god, next to it, must have another animal god, right? Maybe I’m just a skeptic….

  7. these people believe and it’s real to them. the christians, buddhists and muslims will laugh, so will the atheists. but those who laugh just show they don’t understand that other people have a different belief systems. i guess those who laugh or poke fun are more susceptible to intolerance and self-righteousness.

  8. oh there ah…
    used to go there alot awhile back cos my ex-S/O stays there…

    now everyone’s jamming up that place… U TOO!

    /bish

    1 of these days they’ll install gantry there lor…

  9. God, I hate that place now. It used to be quite an empty road where a lady walking along the path with the leaves rustling and winds blowing was a Renoir to be painted. Now, the painting has been invaded by a bunch of monkeys worshiping a tree.

  10. No need to build casinos liaoz, use this tree to attract foreign talents. Uniquely Singapore! No wonder PAPayas love foreign talents.

  11. malique: Hmm… I don’t think the hype will end because it’s kinda like a temple. As long as there are deities there, people will go and pray. Especially since the tree is just opposite a real temple. People going to the temple sure drop by the tree to give offerings also. :P

    JT: Heheh, where have you been hiding? Such a ruckus on your doorstep and you never realised! :P

    Daphne: Well, religion is about helping people understand the meaning of life or have some meaning in life. Can’t really help it. People need it. :P

    modchip: Yah, does that make you want to come to Singapore? Hahah.

    Starstruck: Not aunties lah. The conversation was between two young girls. :P

    Jesta: Well, Chinese and Hindu gods are quite closely related so I guess they, uh, like to visit one another? You always find Hindu gods in Chinese temples.

    Jaywalk: I think people will pray to anything supernatural, regardless of economy. :P But I guess bad economy does create more “believers”.

    hersheys: I suppose it’s quite funny. :P Humans are funny creatures.

    Monster: I won’t blame you for being a skeptic on this one, considering your religion. :P

    believerer: Well, on one hand, I agree it’s quite rude to laugh at other people’s beliefs. But, on the other hand, one should learn to laugh at oneself, too. Like, I don’t get offended when people crack female bashing jokes. I laugh, instead, because they’re funny and true. Real life is funny. :P

    cowgoesmoo: Hahaha. I just had to go see for myself mah. Don’t worry, I won’t go there again. :P

    starmist: Heheh, cool. I saw your entry!

    Minou: Yeah, you’d better!

    Justin: Wow, that’s very poetic. :)

  12. the day you went is so much more people when compared to the day i went to see the tree. guess you went on a weekend.

    its truth as mentioned by a comment above, that stretch of road is never the same again.

    i also did a similar post, but yours more wordy and you manage to capture the “guan yin”!

  13. Wah… miss such interesting news… that’s something I miss when I’m away from Home. :(

    But the good part is I get some of them here in your blog… hahaha

  14. I think that if they were going to visit each other then they would all be in ONE tree… I think it looks more likely that this is some sort of divine condo arrangement – all clustered together with good facilities. It appears that the goddess of mercy has the penthouse apartment.

  15. Frankly speaking , I really wonder whose the real ‘monkey’ is ? Theorically, there must be a reason it is called monkey tree because it is surrounded by monkeys. And from the picture, ironically, i can see why it called monkey tree, because it look like ‘a whole bunch of monkeys’ is surrounding the tree. Sometimes, I wonder if the Tree can laugh, it might be laughing all the monkeys that come visiting and worshiping it. At least, the tree now can rest assured it will not be chopped down because it is a monkey tree, more importantly a ‘Money Tree’.

    Hope that one day, Sheylara will find too a ‘sheylara’ tree, and do tell us about it , haha.

    I find Asian people interesting because they tend to worship anything that give them hope, peace and luck !

    Oppp!!! Did I say my dog’s freshly-baked pooh look like a monkey too ? hmmm, i better starting ‘worshiping’ the pooh while it still fresh, but I’m not going to tell people where the pooh is until I strike lottery…. haha

  16. Leonard: Hehe, guess you’re a pioneer visitor! By the way, thanks for visiting my blog!

    arachno: Hahaha. Good. Glad to be of service. :P

    Jesta: I don’t agree with the one tree thing. One tree a bit too crowded lah. Deities need their own tree to live in. :P Hahaha penthouse! I guess you’re right about that. lol.

    JokeDiary: Haha. Maybe if I ever become a scriptwriter, I’ll use that. :P

    modchip: lol, very funny! Well, I would say the best thing to come to Singapore for would be the food!

    bigmac: Speaking of dog poo, I knew a friend’s uncle who won a lot of money in 4D from studying a clump of dog poo he bumped into one day. So… you never know! :P

  17. A pity u didnt spot the lady face appeared on the tree which u outlined the shape of the so-called budda. It is definitely clearer than any other images ppl claimed that they saw sth, other than the monkeys.

    And i agree with u when u said “Real life is funny” :)

  18. malique: Heh. I saw the fence pictures on another blog. But what are the fences there for, I wonder? Keep people from spilling onto the roads, is it?

    GeMiNi: What lady face? Interesting…. this is the first time I heard of it! By the way, don’t think I’ve seen you before. Thanks for visiting! :)

  19. omg~1st time i see,never exsit b4,face dont look like face,kwan yin dont look like kwan yin,monkey …….ok la……loook like monkey…….serious saying its truely scary!!!!!!!!!!!!! don look!!!!!!!! at it or stare or it haunt u ??? do u all guys think its true???but its just some bug shedded off???~~so wierd~!wonder who is that guy who find out,up to???becareful~@!

  20. so weird~~~~~~~~~~i seriously donnoe who is de one who found this out???so scary~should not say in new~make everyone scare of trees,then de tree sad~~~~~~but if u ask me look, i will not look if u ask me stare,i largi will not stare~!!so scary~!i don even think i belive!!!!!!!so lame lor~but no offends lar~only a car bang a tree,n bug shedded off,n the bug that shedded off just look like a monkey~thats all!!???!!weird>>>>>……i don think anyone will dare 2 stay there liao~~~~SCARYING PPL OFF~!!!

  21. AmElIa: Um… it’s not that scary lah. I think it’s just some random bumps on the tree, lol. And, by the way, you should be putting your own blog’s URL and not MY URL in the URL column. :P

  22. i saw also . i went ytd and lesser ppl . i did not see the human shape but a green colour thing on the monkey tree . cant see the shape of elephant . saw cow also and tiger

  23. bryan: Green colour? What’s that? Someone painted the tree green? Heh, I suppose the novelty is dying down a bit. Er… cow? Didn’t know there was a cow god.

  24. I think it is nothing to worship for as this trees maybe can be found almost entirely around the world…
    Eventhough I did not went and look..I think it is totally a crap..

  25. People see what ever they like in what ever they see. The virgin Mary in a grilled cheese, Buddha in a cloud.

    It all about belief and hope and faith.

  26. Its a deformity,humans are just desperate but I tell u if we need peace there is no place but to come to Jesus christ ,He alone can help our situation no face or shape on a tree or man made idols can help us. Read Acts 4:12

  27. The tree has a deformity so it cannot be god. people has to fast. do you know that u can join two trees at their trunk and both will grow alongside? only Jesus can save man

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