Launceston Joss House

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Only used in 1872?

The opening attracted a lot of interest:

A NEW PLACE OF WORSHIP.–The Chronicle says:

The first Joss-house or Chinese place of worship in this colony, was formally consecrated at mid-night on Monday. This new ecclesiastical establishment has been the work of a few devotees, who remembered, in the land of the barbarians, the sacred (!) truths they had been taught in their youth in their own celestial land.

The new Joss-house has been constructed by the Chinese allowed to lodge in quarters at the stores of Messrs. Peters, Barnard, and Co., Cameron-street. It is a piece of furniture about the size of an ordinary chiffonier, with upper cupboard. The lower part and the sides of the upper have been covered with crimson cloth and overlaid with gold tinsel, and floral decorations. In the centre of the upper part is the full length likeness of “a welly good man, who live tousand years ago and more.” He ascended to heaven, and his son sits at his left hand to assist him in blessing all the Chinese people. On the right hand of the deity or “welly good man” stands a bearded piratical looking character, said to be a disciple of the “welly good man,” but if so he looks more like a Judas disciple than an honest follower. In front are cunningly devised Joss-sticks, which when lighted filled the air with sweet incense.

Oranges and other fruit and offerings were placed in front of the representation of the “welly good man,” and the greater part of Monday afternoon and evening were taken up in roasting a fine large porker in another part of the Chinese quarter ; ducks and other delicacies, with plenty of rice, cooked as only the Chinese have patience to cook it, were also prepared for a great feast in honour of the celebration of the ceremony, which continued probably all night. Numbers of Chinese visitors from the gold-fields were present. The place was well lighted with wax candles in Chinese lanterns, manufactured by the makers of the Joss-house. One feature of the ceremony was the opening of the astrological Joss-sticks, which told wonderful things of the past, present, and future to all the devotees at the shrine of the “welly good man.”

Yesterday morning the feasting, with discharge of Chinese crackers by way of royal salute to the “welly good man,” was very brisk ; but all was done quietly, systematically, and with a simple earnestness quite edifying. The head quarters of the Chinese is in the midst of large spirit stores, but their religious festivity passed off without the use of much of either spirits, wines, beers, or other intoxicating liquors. We understand the Chinese High Priest and his disciples intend to apply to the Government shortly for grant of a piece of land for a site for a grand Joss-house as big as a church.”
The Mercury, 16 August 1872

We were on Monday, through the courtesy of James Peters, Esq., shown some preparations that had been made, by the Chinese in one of the outbuildings of Messrs. Peters, Barnard, & Co.’s premises, for holding a religious festival that night, or more properly speaking, early next morning. We do not profess to be very deeply read in Chinese literature and, therefore, cannot say what was the occasion of this festival, but it appears that the chief idea was to do honor to somebody who came to China many years ago, and distinguished himself to such an extent that his memory has ever since been revered and worshipped — possibly it may be the renowned Confucius.

On entering the shed the eye was at once attracted by a gorgeous display of gold tinsel and colored papers around a table or altar. Immediately opposite the door and on a nearer approach a large picture stood on the altar, which was a representation of the illustrious individual, supported on either side by what might have been supposed to be an angel; Before this picture were placed a number of tapers, candles, sticks (which, when lighted, emited a smell as of incense), a set of miniature basins, and a teapot, from which the idol was asked to drink brandy—a request, it is needless to say, he did not accede to. And one article not the least curious in the motley collection was a small tin canister in which were placed a number of pieces of wood, something after the form of skewers, each of which were labelled with different Chinese characters ; and every man present at the celebration of the feast drew from the canister one of the skewers, and according to the inscription it bears knew whether he has acted in accordance with the wishes of the idol since the previous festival. On different parts of the shed inscriptions in the Chinese language were written, and Chinese lanterns, fly cages of colored paper hung–the delicate workmanship of the latter being really marvellous. We may state that although the Chinese met on this occasion for the purpose of ministering to the wants of their souls their bodies were not forgotten, as the proceedings terminated with a sumptuous repast, the principal feature of which was a pig roasted, and placed upon the table whole in a large trough made specially for the purpose.
Weekly Examiner, 17 August 1872

By way of introduction it may be stated that Mr Jas Peters, of the firm of Peters, Barnard, and Co, primarily induced China-men to cross the Straits, and since the first contingent arrived, he has continued to treat them with great consideration and kindness, allotting for their use while in town, or until they obtained employment, a portion of his extensive promises in Patterson-street Peters, Barnard, and Co’s store has, in fact, been tho head-quarters of the Chinese, and here it is, in an otherwise unoccupied portion of the yard, that they have built their joss-house. Properly-speaking tho building itself is not exclusively a joss house, as it is occupied for various other purposes, the term applying strictly to an altar placed in a prominent position opposite the door. Externally it presents the appearance of a long enclosed shed, the door being placed about the middle. Mr Barnard having taken mu to the spot, introduced me to the most intelligent looking of three or four Children of the Sun, with the request that he would show me the joss and initiate me into the secrets and mysteries of the religion of Confucius

John said “Welly-good,” and, assuming an air that would have done credit to Barnum, marched me up in front of the altar. This piece of upholstery which, by the way, appears necessary to all forms of religion-consists of a table about four foot long by two broad, placed against the wall of the building, and supports a bower of artificial flowers, and gilt paper cut into fantastic shapes. Upon this table stood three tall sticks of some description of fumigating pastille, tipped with gilt paper to represent fire, m front of these were throe rockets, and in front of the rockets three beautiful little China cups, with a minute infusion of tea in the bottom of each Toward the back of the table were also placed some exquisite specimens of China ware, such as would excite the envy of the most fastidious collector Against the wall, and immediately above the table, was an altar piece obtained from the Flowery Land, beautifully painted, and representing three persons–a stout old gentleman seated, a young man standing to the left hand of the elderly party and loaning on his shoulder, and a very fierce shiny individual-a sort of Chinese Bombastes Furioso, standing behind tho right shoulder of the centre figure. All had almond ones, very pink complexions, and unmistakably Mongol features. The interpretation of my “guide, philosopher, and friend” was, as nearly as possible, in the following words -“Ole genelum in middle he really specable, live two, tree towsan year, and when he die he catchoee up (to heaven, I presume)–welly good man he. Young man he ole genelom’s ony son; he no die, he catchee up with um father: he welly good man too, welly specable.” John didn’t seem inclined to go on with the description, but wandered off into a disquisition on the merits of some of the paper flowers adorning the altar, which he evidently did not consider it would be sacrilegious to sell. I brought him back from the commercial to the religious frame of mind by inquiring who the fierce-looking individual might be. “Oh! said John, with a delicate air of contempt, he ole genelem’s great friend, he go whore olo genelem go, kind of disciple-no muchee count he.”
The Mercury, 23 August 1872

After the “opening” ceremony, there are a few mentions:

Yesterday at 4 p.m. a feast of pork, fowls, rice, stewed oysters (imported preserved in baskets from China) and other delicacies was prepared and laid in wooden trays before the “welly good man.” Tho Joss-house was got up regardless of expense decorated with flowers, and the sacred kerosene burned before the “welly good man” brightly. Amongst the Joss literature was what professed to be a Chinese edition of Vol. vi. of the New Testament, from Romans to ii. Corinthians, but it has, evidently not been, so frequently referred to as the Chinese Astrologist, which directs devotees how Io select the best patches of ground for working gold out of. The Joss-house was crowded with Chinese, who commenced their voluble address to the “Welly good man” in pairs, and amongst the aspirations the terms “Table Cape” and “Hellyer” frequently turned up, distinct from the Chinese prayer.
Cornwall Chronicle, 25 September 1872

A grand hall was given at the Blenheim Hotel, Longford, on Thursday night. It was well attended and passed olff with great ecleat owing to the excellent arrangements made by Mr Lloyd and the other gentlemen stewards. One of the novel features of this ball was the Chinese saloon illuminated by Chinese lamps beautifully colored, illustrated by Chinese paintings, the work of Chinese artists, on genuine Chinese art principles, with its daring defiance of the necessity for perspective in landscapes or any other scapes; the tout ensemble completed by two mandarins of ever so many buttons and tails, gorgeously dressed in their native costume and provided with great white fans, taking it rather coolly in their attitude to the fair inquisitive barbarians who came to have a look at the Chinese saloon and its occupants. It is possible some of the romantic bloom of the scene may he rudely brushed from the recollection of the fair visitants by telling them how this celestial scene was got up. The Chince paintings and lanterns are those which usually decorate the Chinese Joss house, and they and even the venerable mandarins belong to the commercial establishment of Messrs Paters Barnard and Co., of Launceston.
Cornwall Chronicle, 23 September 1872

The persevering Chinese ar. still on the move. On Saturday four arrived from Nine Mile Springs, and took up their quarters at Messrs. Peters, Barnard and Co.’s stores and on Thursday are to proceed to the Hellyer, that fascinating spot, to which in spite of all apparent obstacles and difficulties they are irresistibly drawn. The new comers chin-chined the Joss, and found that the venture was to be highly successful -— possibly the “welly good man” was even, more courteous than usual on account of this being the first occasion on which a pair of gongs, which have lately, been sent from the great Joss House at Emerald Hill, were used–much to the annoyance and bewilderment of all barbarians in the locality.
Tasmanian Tribune, 2 October 1872

MOVEMENTS OF CHINESE DIGGERS.– A party of four Chinese proceeded by the s.s. Pioneer for Table Cape, yesterday, en route for the Hellyer diggings. Tom Sing received another letter yesterday from the second party which started from Launceston to proceed to the Hellyer diggings, and it states that Joss was quite right when he warned them it was “too soon ; very wet; very hard work there now.” Then should have remained here a few weeks longer preparing for the campaign at the Hellyer.
Cornwall Chronicle, 4 October 1872
(So not related to the temple directly.)

The Joss House is ever receiving additions, the last being a beautifully worked model of a Chinese ship or junk. The whole of the top part of which is of ivory, cut and carved in a most artistic manner.
Weekly Examiner, 12 October 1872

There’s no mention of it after 1872. Presumably the contents were moved to Nine Mile Springs/Lefroy:

A feature in regard to new buildings [at Nine Mile Springs] is the erection of a “Joss’ House by the Chinese, who for a desire for public worship have set a praiseworthy example to those professing Christian faith, as up to the present no effort has been made by the latter to provide for religious services.
Launceston Examiner, 1 September 1874


It was, however, soon discovered that the fire had broken out in a large wooden store, once the Chinese joss house, belonging to the property between Cameron and Patterson streets so long occupied by Peters and Co., afterwards by R. J. Sadler and Co., and purchased some seven months ago by Mr J. C. Genders, late of Adelaide, who is at the present time having it fitted up for his own use as a wholesale merchant and importer of saddlers’ ironmongery.
Launceston Examiner, 22 November 1881

New Joss House.— We have been informed that at the end of the present month a new Joss House will be opened in the Chinese Camp at Thomas Plains [Weldborough], when a grand display of fireworks and colored lights will also take place in connection therewith. On this occasion the Chinese resident in the district are to appear in their native dresses and gorgeous regalia, in order that they may help in the opening ceremony. The gathering is to last two days. Some 10 years ago we had similar ceremonies, semi-religious observances, at the Chinese caravansary in Cameron-street, adjoining the Bank of Tasmania. Since then we have seen stranger ceremonies than those of the Chinese, awkwardly tacked on to so-called religious observances. We have daily proof that there is nothing new under the sun. The worship of Buddha, Confucius, or Joss is very ancient, as China was a civilised nation 2000 B.C.
Daily Telegraph, 24 January 1884

Lefroy Joss House

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Opened September – October 1874
Demolished 1900s?

Partial of Lefroy Town Chart, AF819/1/170

The site of the Chinese camp is a disused paddock bordered by Powell Street on the east, Shaw Street on the south, a tramline on the west and occupied house and garden on the north.
Tasmania’s Chinese Heritage: an historical record of Chinese sites in North East Tasmania

There is at present a population of 300 persons on the diggings, including about 50 Chinese, but fresh arrivals occur everyday, most of whom meet with immediate employment.
Examiner, 18 June 1874

From “Nine Mile Springs”
A feature in regard to new buildings is the erection of a “Joss’ House by the Chinese, who for a desire for public worship have set a praiseworthy example to those professing Christian faith, as up to the present no effort has been made by the latter to provide for religious services.
Launceston Examiner, 1 September 1874

The European population has considerably diminished of late, but the Chinese seem to be as numerous as over. These pious Orientals have lately erected a neat little Joss-house, and have thus shown, according to their light, a good example to the more favored Christian inhabitants. The door of the little temple stands open to all, to barbarians as well as Celestials. Over the table or altar, is hung a beautifully colored painting in the highest style Chinese art, of some divinity with a horrible looking demon whispering into the right ear and a mild looking angel into the left. Immediately below are placed some exquisitely carved jade figures, and upon the table a lamp is kept constantly burning. From the verandah in front are suspended some of those pretty paper lanterns familiar to all, and which are lighted up at night. The sacrifice of poultry since the dedication to Buddha has been quite alarming, and the good wives at the Springs are now kept in a constant state of dread of nocturnal celestial visitants.
The Tasmanian, 24 October 1874

Having entered the building, we found ourselves in the august presence of Joss, who sat enthroned with an evil-looking figure looking over his right shoulder, with a trident in his hand, and a correspondingly prepossessing young female leaning over his opposite shoulder, these figures being evidently intended to represent good and evil spirits respectively.
The Mercury, 4 February 1875

The population here is how some 350 souls in all; of whom some forty are Chinese; these latter having a joss house and gambling saloon of their own, both said to be well patronised each in its way.
Examiner, 18 November 1876

From “A Tour In The North”
They have a Joss House, or a “churchee,” in which John repents his moral code to the light of a kerosene lamp, much after the same fashion as do some Christians. I am not acquainted with their ritual, and the man who promised to give me a full translation of their commandments did not turn up to make the interpretation. The Joss House is a small weatherboard building, the interior of which affords standing room to about 30 persons. Facing the entrance on a broad shelf are ranged: one lamp, one candle-stick, two vases of flowers, a glass painting of a good looking Japanese woman, and some bundles of sandal wood tapers. There is a recess at the back of the shelf, partially hidden with drapery. On either hand upon the wall are some Chinese characters. Crackers are let off outside at the commencement of the ceremonies, and visitors, white heathens and others, are not forbidden to enter. I left before the collection was made. There is no sermon, and every Chinaman appears to do what is right in his own eyes. There is no harmonium, but the service is accompanied with the noise of a big gong, the noise of which is something awful in close quarters. As far as I could learn, the “Cousin Jacks” had not succeeded in converting the “heathen Chinese” to Wesleyansim, nor had the followers of Confucius succeeded in perverting the faith of Cousin Jack. The Christian religion is kept up at the Springs once a fortnight, the Chinaman’s Joss House is open every day and all night during the week. I will have others to decide who are the firmest believers and the best professors of the twain.
Tribune, 29 March 1877

Since my last the Chinese have celebrated the opening of their new Joss House with great festivities, providing a grand dinner for all who chose to partake of the same–and I can assure you, a person would have thought that numbers who went had not eaten anything for a week. Amongst those who sat at the festive board were a goodly number of the fair sex; considering our small population. Both morning and night, nothing could be heard in little China town, but the report of fireworks, and of bankers at the fan tan shops, calling the winning numbers.
Launceston Examiner, 21 July 1877

“Nine Mile Springs”:
The Joss House is the chief attraction to visitors. They see the mysteries of heathen worship, but should they smile “John” is down upon the offender like a hawk, and quietly hints that he had better travel farther or fare worse, as there will be a row in the camp. In this Joss House are many examples of Chinese ingenuity in the shape of Chinese letters made solely of gold leaf. They are worth a good round sum. Other articles of tapestry and fancy work make tho place look very pretty
The Tasmanian, 29 June 1878

Last contemporary mention (so far) , from a police court report:

Thomas Featonby, for the defence, deposed–I am a miner residing at Lefroy ; recollect the night of the Chinese New Year; was in, company. with Reed, Phillips, and O’Brien; there were others there; some 200 persons were there in front of the “Joss House; ” no disturbance took place whilst I was present; saw no damage done to Ah Gee’s door
Launceston Examiner, 1 March 1883

Miss Helen Vivian interviewing Mr Bill Gibbons 22-1-1984.
Mr Bill Gibbons born 7th October, 1899 at Lefroy
There’s a bit of discussion about the joss house and the location. These are just two extracts about what it looked like and when it was pulled down.

BG: Weatherboards not palings. All the inside I remember was painted pink. In it was an alter thing, bench whatever you call it. They had a Buddha, a big one in brass on the centre of it. Then they had all these images and animals a lot of brass ones. It was full of it. Then all around the walls was all their coloured streamers, balloons, Chinese lanterns, there were their bowls and their chopsticks standing up in the bowls.

HV: Getting back to the Joss House, it was weatherboard on the outside.
BG:-Iron roof.
HV: Did it have a chimney?
BG: No.
HV: Did it have windows?
BG: Yes in the front of it. Windows in the front under the verandah. None at the back and none at the end. Just at the front of it.
HV: On either side of the door?
BG: On both sides of the door
HV: Did it have a wooden floor?
BG: Yes.
HV: Were the walls lined on the inside?
BG: They were lined. It was pine lined. It was tongue and groove pine.
HV: It was really quite a smart building?
BG: Yes it was a nice building. I can always remember the pink paint inside.
HV: So it was pine lined with pink paint?
BG: Pine lined , painted pink.
HV: was the ceiling pine as well?
BG: Yes the whole lot. was pine all over.
HV: Did it have any support columns?
BG: No, none at all.
HV: The roof was just a normal … ?
BG: That shape the roof was, it went down, it was that shape. A big hall, whatever you like to call it with a verandah in front of it, it was all in one. One roof did the lot.

HV: Do you remember the Joss House being pulled down?
BG: Yes, I remember it being pulled down. I think somebody just bought it and put timber or something in it. There were a lot of houses pulled down and taken away. They use to get Warren Phillips and they use to put them on the big lorry thing and take them away. A lot of people (the farmers) bought a lot of places and took them out onto their farms on to their paddocks.
HV: How old were you when the Joss House was pulled down?
BG: I’d be going to school.
HV: Nine or ten?
BG: I went to school when I was seven. Yes I would be ten. I was going to school, but

(From Tasmania’s Chinese Heritage: an historical record of Chinese sites in North East Tasmania, Helen Vivian, 1985, pp.157-169)

Chinese miners were at Lefroy in large numbers, and had their joss-house; this was afterwards removed to Weldborough, and now, reconstructed, forms part of the joss-house exhibit in Launceston Museum.
North-Eastern Advertiser, 3 April 1951

Weldborough Joss House

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This one being the best known and most frequently mentioned, I’m just including material relating to its opening, closure and useful descriptions.

The first mention of a joss house at Weldborough or Thomas Plains predates the opening of the building by almost a year:

From “The Chinese Camp at Thomas’ Plains”
The Joss-house is frequented, and bushels of crackers burnt, the debris from which bestrews the whole camp.
The Mercury, 15 February 1883

The opening was apparently a big event in the area.

New Joss House. We have been informed that at the end of the present month a new Joss House will be opened in the Chinese Camp at Thomas Plains, when a grand display of fireworks and colored lights will also take place in connection therewith. On this occasion the Chinese resident in the district are to appear in their native dresses and gorgeous regalia, in order that they may help in the opening ceremony. The gathering is to last two days.
Daily Telegraph, 24 January 1884

New Joss House.–We have been interviewed by the high priest (about 5ft 6in) who is to officiate at the inauguration of the new Joss House at Thomas Plains on the 31st inst. The ceremony is to be of a most imposing, character, as the Mongolian dresses, emblems, banners, regalia, and fireworks are to be gorgeous, and the music–most ancient; from Pekin—-celestial. The ceremonies will occupy two days and nights, viz., Thursday and Friday next, 31st January and 1st February. We envy the inhabitants of Thomas’ Plains, who will have full opportunity of. witnessing the mysterious ceremonies on this occasion. The admission is free, and all are invited.
Daily Telegraph, 26 January 1884

Thursday last was a red letter day for the people at Thomas’ Plains, being the commencement of the New Year with the Chinese. There was a great muster of that nation, as well as Europeans. The fireworks that were let off in the evening were certainly very beautiful, being imported direct from China, The Joss consists of a painting of an immense personage, and two much smaller figures, one on each side. Pigs were roasted whole, weighing from 80 pounds tot90 pounds, and were well done all through. Before being eaten they were placed in the Joss House before the Joss, and left for about an hour, for him to get his supper first. Strange to say, a t the end of the time allowed the Joss for his repast, when his worshippers went for the pigs, they had not been cut into a t all, his lordship, 1 suppose, not being hungry. The Chinese were very hospitable, and paid every attention to the visitors, supplying them with all sorts of good things in the shape of preserves, spirituous liquors, and other luxuries. I believe that all the horses at George’s Bay were in requisition to carry the visitors from here to the plain. The fireworks, I understand, cost a lot of money, and one may easily imagine they* must have done so, when one alone cost £30, and was something to he remembered. The carving of the wooden frame work of the picture was really a beautiful piece of workmanship, and is well worth seeing.
Tasmanian News, 6 February 1884

But John, like all other thinking animals, must have his religion : it may be hard to reduce it an intelligible issue, what with its mythological figures, fables, fireworks and fatality. Still to him, it is everything, and no sooner are we favoured with an imperfectly macadamized highway than it is immediately utilised in supplying him with the necessary helps in support of his faith. Almost the first dray load of merchandise brought directly on to the plains consisted of a costly set of religious furnishments, including of course a brand new Joss, with fireworks, drums, gongs, and cymbals to boot, hence the unlovely outburst, hinted at in the opening of these notes. To one whose musical fibre seems attuned to nature’s pitch there is something horribly aggravating in John’s musical efforts. I can liken them to nothing better than a tin-kettle corrobborree breaking in upon a marriage feast. Whatever may be tho moral excellencies involved on the philosophical teachings of Confucius, it is to be regretted that he, though skilled himself to play upon a lute with ten silken strings, left nothing recorded to enlighted his countrymen touching the concord of sounds.
Mercury 6 February 1884

Garibaldi Joss House

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I’ve found very little about Garibaldi’s temple. I’ve included everything below, with a break in the middle to consider the photo. Due to a lack of information, it’s hard to pin down the dates of use, but, based on available information, c.1890 to 1920s seems likely

A large Chinese camp has lately been built at the Garibaldi about eight miles from here, which will probably shortly become the head-quarters of the Chinese in this district. The only thing required to make it so now is a Joss House, which will probably be obtained, either by building a new one, or the removal of the one at Weldboro’, unless our respected missionary Wong Poo, succeeds in converting the majority to Christianity, when probably instead of a Joss House, they will have a church.
The Mercury, 3 April 1886

The Chinese new year is just over and the Celestials, numbering about 600 in camp, have had a rare festival this year. I hear that about £400 was gathered for the occasion, which went towards a new joss house at the Garibaldi claim, an addition to joss house at Weldborough, and £100 for fireworks.
The Tasmanian, 23 February 1889

Leaving the one main street we go a few hundred yards to a separate building of larger dimensions. This is the josshouse. Hundreds of visitors are round about it and here, too, we find most of the Chinese congregated. Beautiful and costly lanterns are hung by the josshouse door. Round some lanterns are paper mandarins, etc. revolving on stately procession. Inside the building one is almost overcome with the strong incense and heated air from multitudes of burning tapers. Heavily decorated silks, etc. shut off most of the end view, where, perhaps, Joss himself has his abode for the time. Most of the decorations are very elaborate, and some are exceedingly beautiful.
The Mercury, 1 March 1912

Garibaldi Joss House WC
Chinese Josshouse, Garibaldi
Weekly Courier, 21 May 1914

The panels either side of the door are in storage at the Queen Victoria Museum. The large text translates as “He whose Military Achievements are certain is fit to be a Warrior Deity” and “He whose Smaller print down the sides says “Respectfully presented by Lei Yi Chun from Xin Ning District” and  “Established on the auspicious festive day in an Autumn month during the 16th reigning year of Guang Xu” which I’m told is between 16 August 1890 and 13 October 1890.