Our Chinese Past Inc

Our Chinese Past Inc conducts projects to identify, document, preserve, research and promote the rich diversity of Chinese Australian history and heritage.

Our Chinese Past Inc was formed in 2020 by a group of historians and genealogists – Juanita Kwok, Paul Macgregor, Gill Oxley, Malcolm Oakes and Kira Brown. We are a not-for-profit organisation. We have a particular interest in the digitisation and translation of heritage material, historical records and photographs, to make these more broadly available, and better understood. We do this by working with and supporting museums, historical societies, communities and heritage interest groups. We encourage greater awareness of this history and heritage through websites, apps, publications, signage and displays.

For our first project, “Chinese temples heritage of Uralla, Tingha and Emmaville, NSW, Australia”, we photographed and digitised artefacts from historical Chinese temples of these three towns, translated their inscriptions, and researched the artefacts and the histories of these temples and their communities.

This project builds on Janis Wilton’s Golden Threads project (1997-2004) which created national awareness of NSW Chinese migrant heritage. The project has been assisted with a contribution to the funding of translation work under 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.

A Rich Collection of

Chinese Australian Heritage

The temples of Uralla, Tingha and Emmaville are no longer extant, but a rich collection of their contents is 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. These artefacts, dating from the 1860s-1930s, 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 the historical photographs, include carved inscriptions, totalling almost 1,000 Chinese characters, and containing a wealth of information.

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Shrine cabin - composite -McCrossin's Mill museum

Shrine cabinet panel 2

One of several pieces that would have been part of shrine cabinets. It is not yet known which...
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Incense crate - Wing Hing Long

Incense crate

Shipping crate for “superior benzoin incense” from the Macao firm of 陳天祥 “Chan Tin Cheung”. This firm was one...
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Sudhana Kumāra plaque

Sudhana Kumāra plaque

Sudhana Kumāra (a.k.a. Sun Chai) is an acolyte of Avalokitasvara (a.k.a. Kwun Yam; the Chinese goddess of mercy)....
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St Andrew's Church, Tingha - Temple bell, undated

Temple bell – St Andrew’s Church, Tingha

A temple bell that, at some stage, became a church bell. It is not known in which temple...
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Main temple at Tingha

Tingha 1874 – Masonic Lodge

The main temple at Tingha, photographed possibly in 1890. Photograph reproduced from Elizabeth Weidemann’s 1981 book World of...
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Mannequin frame section 2 - McCrossin's Mill Museum

Mannequin frame section 2

Part of the framing from a diorama which would have showed mannequins from a scene in a play,...
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Chim stick canister 1 -Green Valley Farm

Chim stick canister 1

This canister was used to hold the chim sticks, or fortune sticks, that were used in divination rituals...
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Temple Bell dated 1883–4, McCrossin's mill

Temple bell dated 1883–4

This bell, bearing the date of 1883–84, is a typical temple bell. It would be struck to call...
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Mannequin frame Section 4 - McCrossin's Mill Museum

Mannequin frame section 4

Part of the framing from a diorama which would have showed mannequins from a scene in a play,...
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Shrine cabinet panel 9 - McCrossin's Mill Museum

Shrine cabinet panel 9

Shrine cabinet panel 9 - McCrossin's Mill Museum
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Processional placard 1 -McCrossin's Mill

Processional placards

This set of six placards was originally displayed in the 1883 Howell Road temple in Tingha, and may have...
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Right long couplet board

IMG_6653 Inverell Pioneer Village - Right long couplet board - Paul Macgregor 16.4.21
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Carved scene with three sheep - McCrossin's Mill

Carved scene with three sheep

The shape of this frieze suggests it graced the top of the front of an altar table. It...
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Name plaque dated 1866 - Inverell Pioneer Village

Names plaque dated 1866

The inscription on this plaque is a list of 155 names. The matching design of this plaque, which...
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Queensland Museum’s Chinese collections

One of the largest of the Queensland Museum’s Chinese collections is the Kwong Sang Collection.
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Candlesticks -Wing Hing Long


This pair of candlesticks would have likely stood upon an altar table in the 1883 Howell Rd temple...
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Our Stories

Do you own any temple artefacts?

Help us piece together the forgotten history of the Chinese temples. You may have inherited or purchased Chinese temple artefacts that have come from the New England region, if you have we’d love to hear from you.  Please leave us a message on our contact page. 

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