Situated just three kilometres from the Bendigo CBD, the heritage listed Bendigo Joss Temple, remains as both a living museum and a place of worship. The temple opened in 1871, is painted red, symbolising happiness, vitality and strength.
A Joss House was first constructed at the site in 1856. Which was replaced by a temple in the 1860’s. Joss House temple, made of timber and handmade brick is the only 19th century Chinese building still standing in Bendigo. The temple has three sections: main original temple at the centre; ancestor temple on the right and caretaker’s residence on the left. The right and left constructions are believed to have been added in the 1870’s and 80s. It was rebuilt and opened in 1893 to be used by the Zhi Gong Tong, a Chinese Masonic Society. Dr Sun Yat Sen, who was the provisional first president of the Republic of China, used the help of secret societies to stir up interest in revolution and as a result Chinese Masonic Movement got the support of Dr Sun Yat Sen. The Joss House remained as a headquarters for his Chinese supporters on those years.
The temple remained a meeting place for Chinese, for cultural and spiritual reasons until 1937, when Commonwealth Government designated that no further occupancy is permitted. Around 1942, the Government acquired the site as part of the Bendigo Ordnance Factory reserve and aerodrome. By 1949, the Joss Temple was in a run-down state and was subsequently used by the Department of Interior for storage. In 1965, tenancy was granted to National Trust of Australia (Victoria). Today the ownership of the temple is with the City of Greater Bendigo. From 2007, the temple is managed by Bendigo Heritage Attractions.
The fishpond outside the temple was completed in the 1970’s. The temple is dedicated to Chinese God, General Kwan Gung (221 -266AD). Kwan Gung is said to have brought peace and prosperity to China after the collapse of Han Dynasty. Chinese believe, General Kwan Gung has the divine power to make men successful in their undertakings. Kwan Gung represents the ideal of brotherhood, loyalty and justness, a focus for group cohesion and cooperation, extensively employed by groups such as Hung Men and An Pang, who occupied the temple at the time.
Most Chinese gold seekers in Victoria came from Pear River Delta Region in China; from districts in close proximity to port cities of Hongkong, Macau and Canton. By 1855, there were around 5000 Chinese in Bendigo, then known as Sandhurst. For the Chinese, Australia was known as Tsin Chin San, meaning the New Golden Mountain and Bendigo was known as Dai Gum San, meaning The Big Gold Mountain. Chinese in the Goldfields lived in camps following their traditional life and every big camp had a Joss Temple to worship their Gods. Joss Temples in the goldfields were relatively small and usually made of Canvas, Brick or wood.
The temple is significant in many ways. This is the only Chinese temple in its original site in rural Victoria and this is also the earliest Chinese temple of original design in Australia. The temple is the only built structure relating to the Chinese remaining in Bendigo from the nineteenth century, apart from graves in the Bendigo Cemetery. The horizontal tablet above the central front of the entrance reads, Zhi Gong Tong, which means, The Chinese Masonic Lodge.
Address: Finn Street, Emu Point, North Bendigo VIC 3550
Wednesday – Sunday. 10:30am – 3:00pm, last entry at 2:30pm.
Phone : (03) 5442 1685
Entrance is by donation.
Bendigo Tramways operates talking tram trips to the Joss House Temple