Our first project is “Chinese temples heritage of Uralla, Tingha and Emmaville, NSW, Australia”. For this project, we photographed and digitised artefacts from historical Chinese temples of these three towns, and translated their inscriptions. These temples are no longer extant, but 71 items from their contents are preserved at museums in New England North West: the Wing Hing Long Museum in Tingha, McCrossin’s Mill Museum in Uralla, the Inverell Pioneer Village Museum, and the Emmaville Mining Museum.
Across the museums there is a rich collection of temple-related artefacts, dating from the 1860s-1930s. These include altars, shrines, statues, bells, processional regalia, lanterns, fortune-telling instruments, friezes, printing-blocks, drums, cymbals, and large panels inscribed with religious and morality texts. Some of the furniture comprises dismantled sections. There are also historical photographs showing temple interiors and exteriors. The surviving artefacts, and other artefacts shown in historical photographs, include carved inscriptions, totaling almost 1,000 Chinese characters, and containing a wealth of information.
All the artefacts were digitally photographed by Our Chinese Past curator Paul Macgregor. Chinese-language inscriptions on the temple artefacts were translated and researched by historical linguist Ely Finch. Historical research and writing was then conducted by Our Chinese Past historian Juanita Kwok, with additional research and writing by Ely Finch, Paul Macgregor, Gillian Oxley, Malcolm Oakes and Kira Brown. The website was then developed to house all the photographs, translations and text. The website was designed by Kira Brown. The information architecture of the website was developed by Kira Brown and Paul Macgregor.
By documenting and comparing the temple artefacts across all the museums, translating the inscriptions on the artefacts, and researching what the artefacts are, we have created an overview of the temples’ histories, and determined the likely source of each artefact. In some cases we have been able to work out which fragments can be grouped together as being pieces from an original temple furniture item.
Because many of the inscriptions include the names of those who donated the artefacts, the inscriptions reveal the names of the Chinese pioneers who established these temples and allow us to better understand the historical Chinese communities in Uralla, Tingha and Emmaville.
The Chinese temples project builds on Janis Wilton’s Golden Threads project (1997–2004), which created national awareness of NSW Chinese migrant heritage. Our temples project brings an increased knowledge of the significance of the temple artefacts and highlights the importance of preserving these artefacts for the future. It allows a better understanding of the historical Chinese communities of the New England North West region and promotes the incorporation of their stories into local histories.
Most of the work on the Chinese temples project has been conducted on a pro-bono basis by the Our Chinese Past committee. The project has also been assisted with a contribution to the funding of Ely Finch’s translation work, from the NSW 2020 Small Grants Program for Local History and Archives, a funding program administered by the Royal Australian Historical Society on behalf of the NSW Government through the Heritage Council of NSW.
This project has been assisted by funds allocated to the Royal Australian Historical Society by the NSW Government through the Heritage Council of NSW