There are as many as eleven shrines and nine temples on the island of Pulau Ubin, but none catches the imagination as much as the German Girl Shrine, which is located near Ketam Quarry at the western side of island.
How did the shrine come about? And how did a German girl become a deity on the island? The story began in the 1910s, just before the First World War (1914-1918) broke out.
There was a German family living on Pulau Ubin at the turn of the 20th century, owning a coffee plantation on the northeastern island of Singapore. According to research, the plot of land used to belong to two German families, Daniel Brandt and Hermann Muhlingan, but the identity of the German girl remains unknown.
On 4th August 1914, the United Kingdom declared war on the German Empire, and the colonial government in Singapore started seizing German ships, businesses and properties.
On Pulau Ubin, the British military rounded up the German plantation owner and his family. His frightened daughter, around 18 years of age (said to be born in 1896), escaped into the woods. The rest of her family was sent to a detention barrack on mainland Singapore.
A few days later, the girl’s body was found covered with ants by the Malay plantation workers. It was assumed she had lost her way and fell to her death from a cliff.
After the war, the Germany family returned to Pulau Ubin, looking for the remains of their precious daughter, but could not locate her tombstone. Bitterly, they left Singapore and never returned. The exhumed remains of the dead German girl, however, were said to have kept in a Chinese Taoist temple on a hill together with an iron cross and some coins.
In 1974, a granite quarry company took over the hill for development. A new temple was erected to house the porcelain urn that contained the remains. Soon, the temple became popular with worshippers who prayed for good luck in gambling. The hardcore gamblers attributed their winning streaks to the spirit of the German girl, now regarded as a deity. Offerings of fruits, flowers, cosmetics and perfumes filled up the altar.
The German deity was also known as Lady Datuk by the local Chinese. A few years back, a former Ubin resident who had migrated to Australia dreamed of the deity for three consecutive days. To pay his respect, he bought a Barbie doll and sent it to Pulau Ubin. The doll had since become the symbolic idol of the shrine.
There are rumours that the porcelain urn is now empty, and the remains of the German girl were lost decades ago. Her identity and family remain untraceable today. But on an optimistic point of view, it might be a blessing for the spirit of the German girl, who has become part of Pulau Ubin’s history and is still remembered by the islanders after almost a century.
Published: 13 October 2012
I have created a link to this fascinating story on the sidebar of my blog. I like the old stories of Singapore that you’ve written. Keep them coming! I’ve enjoyed reading them.
It is so touching. I share the emotional feelings of her parents- DIE FAMILIE WIRD SIE NIE VERGESSEN.
Thank you RemSG for this story. Never knew about it before. If I see a German gal of 18 years one of these days in Ubin, I will look twice. Never know.
If anyone somehow has the information about this German girl, you may contact http://www.frische-medien.de/kunden/fgg/ (a documentary started by a local filmmaker Choon Hiong)
Briefly remember seeing this Lady Datuk near Outward Bound many years ago but without knowing she was a German girl. Thank you for sharing this new discovery.
Here is a video of the shrine. See also the links in the about section on the youtube page
Also: Inventing a Goddess In a New Nation, By Sor-Ching Low
Brought someone from Canada to Ubin and the only place he know about Ubin is this Shrine through net which I am not aware of before.Cycled and naturally found this place without much effort.
This place is a bit remote but I love its quietness.Thanks for the info.
my son and his cousins went to Ubin a coupla days ago. they rented bikes and went exploring around the island. he was telling me about this “german girl” shrine that they came upon. i was so intrigued of how a shrine to a german girl came about on ubin, and ended up here. must have been devastating for that poor family to have lost their daughter the way they did! poor family. poor girl. may her soul find eternal rest. i might go there one day to pay her shrine a visit and make a small offering. thanks for the write-up.
The historical research of the German Girl Shrine by National Library of Singapore, BiblioAsia:
I’ve been there, to pay respect to the family 😊