This set of six placards was originally displayed in the 1883 Howell Road temple in Tingha, and may have been used for processions.
McCrossin’s Mill Museum, Uralla
The evidence (see Dating the Placards below) indicates that this set of six placards was originally used in the 1883 Howell Road temple in Tingha. Traditionally such placards are carried on procession through the streets during religious festivals, although it’s not known if they were ever used for this purpose in Tingha. They would have been displayed in the temple, though, ranged along the interior side walls of the deity’s hall.
The top of each placard is styled in the shape of a “palace fan” (宮扇), while the picket-like support is typical of temple “processional placards” (出會高腳牌).
MAIN TEXT ON PLACARDS
The main texts, in large characters, on the fan part of each placard are:
Placard 1 – Main text
Placard 2 – Main text
House(s) of Saints
House(s) of Holy Ones
Placard 3 – Main text
House(s) of Saints
House(s) of Holy Ones
Placard 4 – Main text
Be Solemnly Quiet, and Make Way
Placard 5 – Main text
Be Solemnly Quiet, and Make Way
Placard 6 – Main text
House(s) of Saints
House(s) of Holy Ones
Three of the six placards have 列聖宮 “House(s) of Saints” or “House(s) of Holy Ones” inscribed on them, so it is highly likely that this is the name of the temple they came from. 水月宮 “House of the Water Moon” is likely the name of one of the rooms in that temple. The two placards inscribed with 肅靜迴避 “Be solemnly quiet, and make way” would have been carried at the front of a procession, as a request to the people in the street.
TEXT ON PICKETS – DONORS & MANUFACTURER
Each fan is mounted on a flat timber picket. On the pickets of each fan are various inscriptions that record the name and address of the manufacturer and also the names of twenty donors who subscribed to support the purchase of the placards. The names are romanised, in the translations below, in Cantonese.
Placard 1 – Picket text
廖德煌 陳荷德 梁林勝
鄭三保 鄭元焜 鄭泰坤 鄭寬揚
Respectfully given, along with (an) entrance adornment(s), by Thy/Your favoured devotees
Placard 2 – Picket text
黃務五 鄭阿月 聶帝揚 聶阿禧
Respectfully given by
Wong Mo Ng, Cheng Ah Yuet, Nip Tai Yeung, Nip Ah Hei,
Chan Kai Ko, and Yung Tai Wo.
Placard 3 – Picket text
李惠 李崧 謝成
鄭星連 鄭三田 鄭成發 鄭金祥
Respectfully given by Thy/Your favoured followers
Lee Wai, Lee Sung, Tse Shing,
Cheng Sing Lin, Cheng Sam Tin, Cheng Shing Fat, and Cheng Kam Cheung.
Placard 4 – Picket text
Placard 5 – Picket text
Made by Ming Cheung, Wui Sin,
Placard 6 – Picket text
Made by Ming Cheung of Wui Sin, Canton.
DATING THE PLACARDS, AND LOCATING THEIR TEMPLE
Three of the placards (Placards 4, 5, 6) have the name and address of the manufacturer: Ming Cheung of Wui Sin, Canton. This manufacturer also created a pair of candlesticks, inscribed with a date of 1883, which were made for the 1883 Howell Road temple in Tingha. Another date corroboration is that one of the donors of the placards, “Chan Kai Ko” (陳啟高) (listed on Placard 2), is also the sole donor listed on the temple bell at McCrossin’s Mill Museum, and this bell bears the date of 1883 too.
The only temple in New England which is known to have opened in 1883 is the temple at Howell Road in Tingha. The 1883 candlesticks also have the name of Chen Quin Jack (陳觀植) inscribed on them as the donor. He is credited with being the builder of the Howell Road temple.
That the placards come from a Tingha temple is corroborated by the names of two well-known Tingha residents on this placard: Samuel Lum Sing (Leong Lum Sing) and Dr. Tet Fong (“Liao Tet Fong”), father of Dr. Fah Sue Tet Fong.
DECORATION OF THE PLACARDS
Placards 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 feature a traditional “swastika pattern” (卐字紋) as a fretwork background to the large characters emblazoned on their palace-fan-shaped tops.
Placard 3 features an “interlaced coin pattern” (連錢紋) as a background. This point of difference distinguishes it within the wider set.
QUALITY OF THE PLACARDS
Many temples in Australia, in China, and around the diaspora, have, or once had, processional placards. Few have survived. Many were plain boards with text painted onto them. Few are as grand or intricately carved as the ones from the 1883 Howell Rd temple. They are, perhaps, some of the finest examples ever made, and a testament to the wealth of the Chinese tin miners of 1880s’ Tingha.
“Entrance adornment”: “Entrance adornment” is a translation of the Chinese word 彩門 “choy-moon”. This word refers to a very specific type of hanging temple decoration, of which the “Yeung Fook Tong” entrance adornment is an example.
“House of the Water Moon”: 水月宮 “House of the Water Moon” is one of several standard alternative names for a temple dedicated to the Buddhist deity 觀音 Avalokitasvara (a.k.a. Kwun Yam, Guānyīn), who, on account of its syncretic nature, is also venerated in Chinese folk religion.
Shape and form: The top section of each of these processional placards is styled in the shape of a 宮扇 “palace fan”, similar to that depicted behind the central throne in the Carved scene with three sheep, while the picket-like support is typical of temple 出會高腳牌 “processional placards”.
Leong Lum Sing is Samuel Lum Sing: Information provided by the late Mr. (Francis) Bunny Yong Gee (1925–2017), who was the son of Leong YONG GEE (1873–1948), a fellow villager of Samuel Lum Sing, confirms that his Chinese name was 梁林勝 Leong Lum Sing, as is inscribed on the placard, and that his native village was 曹邊 Cho Bin (which romanisation can also been rendered “Tso Pin” and “Chou-Been”). Much of the story of Samuel Lum Sing’s life is known to his descendant Jo (a.k.a. Jai) Real and historians Dr. Juanita Kwok and Dr. Sandi Robb: he was a Tingha storekeeper at the time the placard is hypothesised to have been donated (1883); he married Sarah See, daughter of 張碧波 Thomas See of Armidale, in 1889; he went bankrupt in 1891; and he later lived in the Queensland towns of Rockhampton, Charters Towers, and Richmond, where he died in 1909. The translator visited Samuel Lum Sing’s native village of 曹邊 Cho Bin in 2016, and its 武侯殿 “Hall of the Martial Marquess” temple, where he photographed its two stelae, one of which dates from 1880 and the other from 1919. It would appear that Samuel Lum Sing is named as one of the most generous of the many donors towards the rebuilding of the temple on the 1880 stela; though his name is written with a slightly different third character, as “梁林盛”, Heung Shan natives being apt to conflate these two characters.
廖德煌 “Liao Tet Fong” is probably Fah Sue Tet Fong’s father: It seems likely that the donor named 廖德煌 “Liao Tet Fong” is Tingha Chinese herbalist Fah Sue Tet Fong’s father. The Tet Fong collection held at the University of New England contains numerous items of Chinese-language correspondence; drawing on this rich source, and on old Chinese-language newspaper reports, the following picture emerges, which supports this hypothesis:
- Fah Sue Tet Fong was a Hakka from 惠州府 Wai Chau Prefecture’s 歸善縣 district of Kwai Shin, which bordered Tung Kwun to the west and Sun On to the south. Fah Sue Tet Fong’s wife was also a Hakka, but she hailed from the neighbouring 東莞縣 district of Tung Kwun, in 廣州府 Canton prefecture.
- Fah Sue Tet Fong’s Chinese surname was “廖” “Liao”; his given name was 華秀 “Fah Sue”; and his courtesy name was 晉基 “Chin Kee”.
- The historic romanisation “Fah Sue Tet Fong” appears to reflect the Hakka pronunciation of the characters “華秀德煌”. This name is formed from Fah Sue Tet Fong’s Chinese given name followed by what would seem to have been his father’s given name, the latter having been adopted as his English surname.
- Fah Sue Tet Fong’s wife’s maiden name was 劉 “Liu”; her given name was 蘭芳 “Lan Fong”.
- Fah Sue Tet Fong died in 1929, and his wife “Liu Lan Fong”, who was known in English as “Lan Low(e)” or “Mrs. Tet Fong”, died in 1946.
- In addition to the inscription on the processional placard, 廖德煌 “Liao Tet Fong” is also named in a letter. This letter is dated 25th March 1950, and was sent to Fah Sue Tet Fong’s four sons by their 42-year-old cousin 廖秉璋 “Liao Pin Chong”, a resident of the Tet Fongs’ ancestral place, who had previously corresponded with their father. The letter provides a great deal of information about the “Liao” clan; furthermore, “Liao Chin Kee” (Fah Sue Tet Fong) is explicitly identified in it as the recipients’ father, while “Liao Tet Fong” is named alongside and identified as a different person. It is not explicitly stated that he is the recipients’ grandfather, but the implication is that he is a person who is known to them, who had gone out to Australia. Given the historical tendency in Australia for a son to adopt his Chinese father’s given name as an English surname, that this man’s given name was “Tet Fong”, that Fah Sue Tet Fong’s English surname was Tet Fong, that the two are different people, and that both went to Australia, it seems likely that “Liao Tet Fong” was Fah Sue Tet Fong’s father.
- Fah Sue Tet Fong’s herbal-medicine shop is variously referred to in the newspapers as 達芳店 “Tet Fong’s shop” and 德芳藥店 “The Tet Fong Medicine Shop”, which inconsistency in the writing of “Tet Fong” suggests unsureness as to the characters that corresponded to it. In view of the likelihood that Fah Sue Tet Fong’s father’s Chinese given name was 德煌 “Tet Fong”, and that Fah Sue Tet Fong’s English surname derived from it, the shop’s name could be a reference to Fah Sue Tet Fong, or to his father, or to both father and son. If the statement made on page 145 of Helen Brown’s Tin at Tingha that herbalist Dr. Fah Sue Tet Fong came to Australia in 1891 is correct, it would seem that the “Dr. Tet Fong” referred to in the following English-language articles from 1875 and 1882 was his father: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article217833329 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108204307
“Cheng Sam Bow” is Mr. Sam Bow: There seems to be little room for doubt that the donor named 鄭三保 “Cheng Sam Bow” is the man known in English as Mr. Sam Bow, who is the subject of this 1926 eulogy: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187949649 Mr. Sam Bow was a prominent Chinese merchant and Uralla resident, and this fits with the appearance of “Cheng Sam Bow’s” name in Chinese-language donor lists for Uralla, always in the most generous category of donors, as is characteristic with Chinese merchants, who were typically important community leaders and liberal benefactors towards community causes. The statement in his English-language eulogy that Mr. Sam Bow had four surviving sons also matches up with a Chinese-language notice posted in 1930 by the four sons of the late “Cheng Sam Bow”, which notice concerns the loss of share certificates that had been held by him. Incidentally, the notice provides the Chinese names of these sons, one of which is partly unreadable on Trove; the three that can be read are: 鄭玉堂 “Cheng Yuk Tong”, 鄭玉啟 “Cheng Yuk Kai” and 鄭玉宏 “Cheng Yuk Wang”. The English names of his sons were, according to his eulogy: Leslie, Gilbert, Wallace, and Herbert.
Mr. Sam Bow and East Maitland: A Chinese-language notice posted in 1903 indicates that “Cheng Sam Bow”, i.e. Mr. Sam Bow, had an interest in a grocery in East Maitland: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article247426890 The notice concerns his and another man’s withdrawal from the partnership, leaving just one of the original three partners in possession of the business.
Mr. Sam Bow’s interests in Uralla businesses Chong Sing & Co and Warley & Co) The website of the New South Wales state archives lists records that provide the following information about Mr. Sam Bow’s business interests:
- In 1908, Mr. Sam Bow was a partner in the Uralla firm of Chong Sing & Co., along with “SEE, George; FONG, Harry; KONG, Willie; WING, Yook; BOW, Sam; and YEE, James Won”. (See https://records-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/INDEX1790326)
- In 1915, Mr. Sam Bow was partner in the Uralla firm of S. Warley & Co., along with “TONG, Wing Chung; NAM, Ping; KEE, G Ho; and WAY, Charles Gock”. (See https://records-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/1ebnd1l/INDEX1822295)
Chong Sing & Co. would presumably be the firm named “昌盛” that appears first in two 1911 Chinese-language lists of Uralla donors. Warley & Co., Uralla, may be the firm named “三和利” “Sam Wo Lee”, which was styled “S. W. Lee” in English. The name “Warley” was designated elsewhere in Chinese by the characters “和利” “Wo Lee”, the initial “三” “Sam” in the name of the Uralla firm possibly being a reference to 鄭三保 Mr. Sam Bow. However, a notice in the Tung Wah Times states that S. W. Lee, Uralla was taken over by Dickson & Co. (德信號), Uralla in 1905, which does not fit with the 1915 date given above. Further research would be required to unravel what appears to be the complicated story of the Warley set of firms.
“Cheng Tai Kwan”: 鄭泰坤 “Cheng Tai Kwan” is also named as a donor of the “Temple drum stand”. That text provides the name of his native village, 香邑烏石 “Woo Shek, Heung Shan”, which he shared with his fellow donor, who was also surnamed 鄭 “Cheng”. It may be that all the placard donors surnamed 鄭 “Cheng” hailed from this village, or its immediate vicinity, which would have made them members of a minority language group. Owing to the similarity and a semantic connection between their names, and their common locality of origin, it seems probable that 鄭泰坤 “Cheng Tai Kwan” was the brother of a man named 鄭泰乾 “Cheng Tai Kin”, who a 1927 notice indicates hailed from the same Heung Shan locality of 谷都 “Kuk Tou” and was buried at Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery. 鄭三田 “Cheng Sam Tin”, one of the donors of “Processional placard 3”, is also named in this notice as being buried at Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery, and as hailing from the Heung Shan locality of 谷都 “Kuk Tou”, specifically the village of 烏石 “Woo Shek”.
鄭元焜 “Cheng Yuen Kwan” may be a man named “Ah Quon” in English and a prominent Tingha Yee Hing member whose name is written in several Chinese-language sources as 陳焜/陳昆 “Chan Kwan”: It is conceivable that the donor named 鄭元焜 “Cheng Yuen Kwan” could be a man referred to as 陳焜/陳昆 “Chan Kwan” in Tingha donor lists. This is due to the fact that the surname 鄭 “Cheng” was pronounced “Chin” in some vernaculars, making it easily mistakable for the surname 陳 “Chan”, which was pronounced “Chin” too in other vernaculars; the absence of the “Yuen” would be consistent with the use of a short form, similar to the shortening of “Johnathan” to “John” in English. The final characters of these names—焜 “Kwan”—are the same (the homophonous and far more common character “昆” was clearly printed in its place in some of the lists). The 1916 Tingha donor list is a list of Yee Hing Society donors, and it names 陳焜 “Chan Kwan” first, as the most generous of a set of 18 donors. This suggests that he was a prominent member of Tingha’s Yee Hing Society. The second man named in the list, in a set of 3 second-tier donors, is 鄭三開“Cheng Sam Hoy”, who is suspected to be George Gent Hoy. The prominence of these two men’s names in the donor list suggests that they were merchants, as George Gent Hoy is known to have been. Research into George Gent Hoy’s business connections reveals that until the 18th of February 1881 he was in partnership as a general storekeeper with a man named “Ah Quon”. “Quon” is an alternative romanisation of the 焜 “Kwan” in 鄭元焜 “Cheng Yuen Kwan” and 陳焜 “Chan Kwan”. It is therefore perfectly conceivable that Ah Quon, “Chan Kwan” and “Cheng Yuen Kwan” are one and the same person.
This is a continually evolving website, and more information about this object will be published as further research is conducted.