‘Joss’ house revealed as palace fit for a hero
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.
Jacky Tam in his presentation to the Douglas Historical Society