SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL LIFE IN EARLY CHINATOWN
The Original Tam Kung Temple (building on right)
Courtesy: B.C. Archives: B-06854
Con-Temple-ations. . .
surviving temples in Victoria are the Tam Kung
Temple on Government Street and the Palace of the
Sages (sometimes translated as “Palace of All
Saints” or variations thereof) which is now located in the Chinese
The Kam Tung Temple was
originally a one-storey structure. In fact, it appears to have
been a house rented by the Hakka who
managed to get enough money together to purchase it in 1877. A
brick façade was added to the building to make it more Oriental
in appearance and it remained in that state until 1911, when it was
torn down and replaced by the present three storey structure at 1713
Government. The temple took up the third floor of the new Yen-Wo
Society building, where it remains today.
Tam Kung is
not a widely known deity; his legends seem to have
been disseminated mainly in the south of China where he is believed to have lived and
from where most of the Chinese immigrants to Victoria originally hailed. Depending on
which legend you believe, he was either a
messiah-like individual, the head of the armies
who repelled Hong Kong against Mongolian invaders, or the last
emperor of the Song Dynasty who took “Tam Kung” as an assumed name.
The Palace of
the Sages was originally located on the third
floor of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent
Association (CCBA) building at what is now 556 Fisgard. There are
five deities represented in this temple: the god of wealth (Zhao Yuan
Tan), the god of medicine (Hua Tuo), the queen of Heaven (Tian Hou), the god of the military (Kwan Yu), and the
great Chinese philosopher Confucious.
building still stands (one of the few buildings in
present-day Victoria that are represented on the 1885 fire
insurance map), the temple itself was relocated to the Chinese Public School building in the 1960s.
An Idol from the Victoria Confucian Temple said to be Kuan Gong, the
God of War
Courtesy B.C. Archives: B-06855
Cheun-Yan David and Pamela Madoff, Building and Rebuilding Harmony:
The Gateway to Victoria's Chinatown, Western Geographical Series,
the Forbidden City.
What do the