Joss Houses and Temples
Detail, Chinese carved panel, possibly from Hepburn Springs Joss House (no longer in existence). Date unknown. Photograph by Jary Nemo.Contributors
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Copyright in photograph with Jary Nemo.
Joss Houses were centres of community life, part places of worship, part places for community gatherings.
'Joss House' was a European name for a Chinese place of worship, association or congregation.
They were found in all goldfields towns with significant Chinese communities.
Some were ancestral temples where specific family groups could commemorate their family or clan.
Others were temples dedicated to folk gods or any of the specific deities worshipped across the goldfields.
A popular and revered deity was Guan-Di (Kwan Gong), the god of war and prosperity. Guan-Di was revered by the three main Chinese religious groups: Confucians, Taoists and Buddhists. Bendigo's Joss House Temple, constructed in the 1870s as part of the Ironbark Chinese Camp, is dedicated to Guan-Di.
Some houses were managed by lodges or regional associations and were more like clubs where members congregated, supported each other and shared cultural practices.
And sometimes a ‘Joss House’ might combine activities of a place of worship and a club.
Chinese Christians and Muslims could be found worshipping on the goldfields with other (Chinese and non-Chinese) adherents of their faith. Dedications to the Christian god have also been found on Chinese temple panels from the goldfields era.
The carved panel pictured here is thought to have come from a Joss House that no longer exists, in Hepburn Springs, near Daylesford in central Victoria.
With thanks to the Gold Museum-Sovereign Hill Collections Manager Elizabeth Marsden.