‘Joss’ house re­vealed as palace fit for a hero

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK - Shane Ni­chols

THE Chi­nese joss house on Warner Street, de­mol­ished decades ago and now re­mem­bered mainly by its in­scribed pan­els in the Court House Musuem, was no such thing.

New ev­i­dence re­vealed this week points to its true iden­tity as The Palace of Mar­quis King” or Hou Wang Palace.

The story has come out thanks to his­tor­i­cal de­tec­tive work by Jacky Tam, of the Cairns and District Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion.

In a pre­sen­ta­tion to the Dou­glas His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety on Mon­day, Mr Tam ex­plained how his work on a bunch of clues that in­cluded the in­scrip- tions them­selves and arte­facts led him to be­lieve the pan­els had come from the “palace” de­voted to a renowned fig­ure in Chi­nese his­tory.

“Hou Wang” was Mar­quis (Hou) Yang, the ma­ter­nal un­cle of the last emperor of Sung Dy­nasty, eight-years-old Emperor Bing.

When the Mon­go­lians in­vaded China, Mar­quis Yang es­corted Emperor Bing down south, reach­ing to­day’s Hong Kong. He fell ill and died there soon af­ter, and was posthu­mously hon­oured as king (Wang).

Later, in the year 1279 AD, fol­low­ing com­plete de­feat by Mon­go­lians, the Song prime min­is­ter com­mit­ted sui­cide by drown­ing him­self with Emperor Bing.

With great re­spect for Hou Wang’s loy­alty to the coun­try, lo­cal peo­ple built tem­ples in his hon­our, wor­ship­ping him as a god and pray­ing for his protection.

There are 10 tem­ples in Hong Kong de­voted to Hou Wang as a de­ity. In Ather­ton a rare Hou Wang Tem­ple was re­built and now serves as a mu­seum.

Some­time ago an in­ter­state per­son who had bought a tem­ple bell bear­ing the char­ac­ters “Hou Wang Palace”, from Port Dou­glas, sent pho­tos of it to the Cairns and District Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion for help in trans­lat­ing the Chi­nese text. to­gether

It was con­firmed that the bell could not be from other Far North Queens­land tem­ples (Ather­ton, Cook­town, Cairns, or In­n­is­fail).

The pair of par­tially rot­ten tim­ber ban­ners, known as a cou­plet, orig­i­nally in front of the en­trance to the Port Dou­glas tem­ple, are now on dis­play in the Court House Mu­seum on Wharf St.

Two sets of Chi­nese words, very sel­dom used, on the cou­plet, are iden­ti­cal to those on a set in a Hou Wang tem­ple in Hong Kong.

Mr Tam said these are an­other strong clue to the iden­tity of the Port Dou­glas “joss house” be­ing in fact Hou Wang Palace.

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

Jacky Tam in his pre­sen­ta­tion to the Dou­glas His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

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