This couplet board is believed to have formed part of a shrine-cabinet surround, as is suggested by the tenons projecting at top.


McCrossin’s Mill Museum, Uralla

Southern sky couplet board - McCrossin's Mill
“Southern sky” couplet board – at McCrossin’s Mill (IMG_4567, 15.7.19)



      Gods so illustrious that they outshine the southern sky.


The hypothesis is that this couplet board, which the metrical structure of its text indicates occupied a position on the left, formed part of a shrine cabinet surround (as is suggested by the tenons projecting at top). However, the identity of the temple it comes from is not known.


“Southern sky”: The nature of the text and the tenons projecting from the top of the board suggest that it once formed part of an altar surround within a temple. It seems likely that the expression translated as “southern sky” is an oblique reference to this temple’s geographical location in Australia, and thus constitutes an acknowledgement of place—see notes on the “Photographs of the Emmaville temple’s façade and interior” for more about and further examples of references to place in overseas Chinese temples.

The text is the second line of a couplet: The metrical structure of the line distinguishes it as the second or so-called lower line of a Chinese couplet. The couplet’s first or upper line would have been carved on a matching board, the fate of which is unknown.

Indent: The English translation is indented to indicate that it is the second or so-called lower line of a couplet.

The translation: The translation given above is relatively free and reflects only one of a number of possible readings of this line, the intended sense of which would likely have been clarified by the line that preceded it. An example of such a point of ambiguity is whether the line refers to one or multiple deities. Were the former to be the case, the line might instead be translated as “And so illustrious a god that He/She outshines the southern sky”, the change in syntax and phrasing being introduced to maintain the metre, which is integral to the original.

This is a continually evolving website, and more information about this object will be published as further research is conducted.