The doorway to the Kuan Ti temple in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is a veritable melting pot, blending together identities as varied as Malay, Chinese, Indian, European, and indigenous. The Chinese, in particular, have exerted a strong influence on the city’s history, and continue to be one of its most significant communities. Their social lives remain centred on the many Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist temples that dot the city, with the oldest ones naturally being the most important. An excellent example is the Guan Di (also spelled Kuan Ti) temple, a small Taoist shrine dedicated to Guang Di, the Tao god of war and literature. A distinctive, red painted temple, it is marked by a grand yet unassuming doorway that frames a colourful courtyard full of joss sticks, altars, and offerings boxes. What makes the visit more interesting is the context – it sits sandwiched between two boring office blocks, but faces the Sri Mariamman Temple, the city’s most prominent Indian temple, and lies a few steps from Masjid Jamek, the city’s oldest mosque.