This image of Guan Di (a copy to preserve the original) is a small part of what is undoubtedly the premier collection of Chinese Temple objects in Australia and very possibly outside (or even inside) China. The collection is in Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) and the story of how the objects arrived there says much about the history of the Chinese in Tasmania.
The temples began in the 1880s at a time when the price of tin was at a record high and the tin mining communities, as with other mining booms, believed it would last forever. For the many Chinese miners, their excess wealth from tin was suitably put into the erection of a temple. In the case of Tasmania this meant five temples in all, built in various styles but all stocked with appropriate items brought from China.
As the price and the amount of tin gradually fell the five communities dwindled until their temples were no longer viable. However the Chinese communities of Tasmania, and in particular James Chong Gun, gathered together the temple objects as each temple closed, with the best material being kept in Weldborough temple. When this temple closed in 1934 the collection was donated to the City of Launceston it was set up in 1937 as an operating temple within the museum.
The Launceston Chinese community considers the temple display at the museum to be a continuing temple and ceremonies continue to take place there from time to time.