This bell, bearing the date of 1883–84, is a typical temple bell. It would be struck to call the attention of the deity (or deities) in the temple.
McCrossin’s Mill Museum, Uralla
Bearing the date of 1883–84, the bell is likely to have been used in the 1883 Howell Road temple in Tingha. This is the only temple in New England which is known to have opened in 1883–84.
TEXT ON BELL
House of the Great King
The large-character inscription on the bell, “House of the Great King”, indicates dedication to either 洪聖大王 “Great King Hung Shing”, who is the god of the Southern Ocean, or a deity known as 大王爺 “Tai Wong Ye”. The word “House” in the inscription would usually be understood as a reference to a temple, but in this case it may refer instead to a room, specifically one of two rooms within Tingha’s 1883 Howell Road temple.
Couplet on bell
Agreeable be the winds, seasonable be the rains;
Peaceful be the state, secure be its people.
This well-known couplet that is inscribed in cartouches on opposite sides of the bell is a standard component of the external decoration of all Chinese temple bells.
An auspicious day in the ninth year of the Kuang Hsü Era.
The ninth year of the Kuang Hsü Era corresponds to the period on the Gregorian calendar that began on the 8th of February 1883 and ended on the 27th of January 1884.
Respectfully given by Chan Kai Ko.
陳啟高 “Chan Kai Ko” is also named as one of the donors on Processional Placard 2.
Made by the Sun Cheung foundry
A 1928 newspaper article that contains a description of Tingha’s two temples states that the larger of them, which the evidence indicates was the 1883 temple, contained an “enormous bell”: see http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158400968
Date: The ninth year of the Kuang Hsü Era corresponds to the period on the Gregorian calendar that began on the 8th of February 1883 and ended on the 27th of January 1884. According to a contemporaneous newspaper article, the opening celebrations for Tingha’s 1883 Howell Road temple began on Saturday the 27th of January 1883, which falls a full 12 days before the beginning of the Chinese year in question. The article indicated, however, that the celebrations would continue for some days. See http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136460221
信昌爐 “the Sun Cheung foundry”: The 信昌爐 “Sun Cheung foundry” is a known manufacturer. The Chinese in North America Research Committee (CINARC) website credits this firm—which it refers to by means of the Mandarin romanisation “Xinchang”—with the manufacture of the following bells:
- A bell at the Tin How Temple, San Francisco, California that dates from 1875 (note: the CINARC website mislabels this artefact in English with a date of 1874, but the transcription of the bell’s Chinese-language date that is provided alongside clearly equates to the 8-January-to-5-February-1875 period).
- A bell at the Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, California that dates from 1882.
- A bell at the Won Lin Temple, Weaverville, California that is undated.
- A bell from Merced, California that is undated, but is thought to date from the 1875-to-1895 period.
- A bell from the Ng Shing Gong Temple, San Jose, California that the CINARC website states dates from 1889.
The CINARC website indicates, furthermore, that the “Xinchang” foundry was located in Foshan (Fat Shan), which it states was a centre for iron casting (statements that are confirmed by a paper written by museum artefact researcher 朱培建 Zhū Péijiàn that is available on the website of the Foshan Museum: http://www.foshanmuseum.com/learning/detail.html?id=9287). It observes too that “The Xinchang 信昌 foundry seems to have been especially popular: its products are reported from Chinatowns in Hui-an (Vietnam), Penang (Malaysia), and Innisfail (Australia) as well as at the above five temples in California [Note 2]. In Foshan itself a cast 3-legged toad sculpture bears the name of Xinchang, and in 1870 the same foundry cast a large tripod censer for the City God temple in Luoding, Guangdong province.” The “Note 2” it cites reads as follows: “For these and other Chinese bells in Southeast Asia, the most authoritative source is Claudine Salmon, “Transnational Networks as Reflected in Epigraphy: the Case of Chinese Buddhist Bells in Southeast Asia,” in Tan Chee-Beng et al., Chinese Overseas, Chinese U. of Hong Kong, 2007.”
This is a continually evolving website, and more information about this object will be published as further research is conducted.