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Temple talk

Published 17 April 2024

Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street. (1901) with the dragon head still housed at the See Yup Temple. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.

The heritage-listed See Yup Temple in Raglan Street, South Melbourne, is rising from the ashes of a fire in February.

Historian and curator Dr Sophie Couchman will explore the historical, spiritual and cultural heritage embodied by the temple and its contents at a free heritage talk on Monday 6 May at Emerald Hill Library at 6.30 pm.

The See Yup Temple is Australia’s oldest continuously operating Chinese temple. The temple was built in 1866 and holds national significance.

Fortunately, the fire was restricted to the main building, and the Buddhist-Taoist temple’s ancestral halls and adjacent buildings were spared. There was no damage done to the thousands of wooden plaques in the ancestral halls recording the names and places of origin of Chinese immigrants, many of them coming to work at the goldfields.

See Yup Society Vice-President Michael Lam said restoration works are almost ready to begin.

“It is important to us to restore the temple and its artefacts so its rich heritage can continue,” Mr Lam said.

A temporary roof will soon be in place and a project management plan is being finalised. Once the roof provides further protection, work will also begin on expertly restoring those artefacts damaged in the blaze.

“There’s still a lot of things to be done but we are excited that the restoration will soon be underway,” Mr Lam said.

All three altars survived, with the grand altar completely untouched by the flames.

“One of the altars was burnt at the top and bottom but not where the god sits in the middle. I think I will pay more attention in the future when I put a joss stick in at the altar,” Mr Lam smiled.

To book to attend the free talk on 6 May go to: Heritage Talk: See Yup Temple with Dr. Sophie Couchman | Port Phillip Library Service