AFTER 30 days at sea, Chinese coolies disembarking along Singapore's old harbour headed for one important landmark to thank their deities for the safe passage: the Yueh Hai Ching Temple.

Built at its current location near Raffles Place in 1855, the temple has witnessed Singapore's growth and nourished the souls of many generations of Singaporeans. Now, it needs its own nurturing.

Its rooftop sculptures have dulled in colour and chipped. The building's interior rosewood beams have all lost their joints, and only fit together by being bolted with metal fasteners. Its concrete wall carvings turn into powder upon touch.

To remedy this, Ngee Ann Kongsi foundation, which owns the temple, will commit $5 million to restore it over two years, beginning next year.

'We've fixed certain parts here and there, but this is the first time in 155 years that we're restoring the entire structure at once,' says Mr Baey Theng Mong, the primary administrator for the project at Ngee Ann Kongsi.

Slated to begin after Chinese New Year in February,, the restoration will see craftsmen remove the roof, support beams, sculptures, and wall carvings, leaving only an empty building shell.

Downtown temple to be restored