[DESTROYED] Lytton Joss House Site - Lytton, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 50° 13.766 W 121° 34.891
10U E 601171 N 5565102
Opened May 13, 2017, the Lytton Chinese History Museum stands on a heritage property, once the site of an 1881 Chinese Joss House, unceremoniously torn down some time after 1928.
Waymark Code: WM113Q2
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 08/10/2019
Published By:Groundspeak Regular Member Dunbar Loop
Views: 2

From Sunday, June 27, to Tuesday, June 29, 2021 Lytton broke the all-time Canadian high-temperature record, with each day hotter than the last. The heat peaked on Tuesday when the temperature reached 121 F (49.6 C). Then, late Wednesday afternoon, June 30, a wildfire broke out in the town and, aided by strong winds, burned 90% of Lytton to the ground in just minutes, including all 1,600 artifacts in Lytton's Chinese history museum were destroyed.

In February 2016, the site of the former joss house was granted official heritage status under Heritage B.C.'s Chinese Historic Places Recognition Project.

The museum was created as a tangible reminder of the 17,000 Chinese men who came to B.C. to work as labourers on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), as well as the Chinese miners, merchants and farmers. Their ultimate contribution to the completion of the CPR was huge; without their labour and sacrifice the railway would still have been built, but completion would have come about many years later than it was, and at a much greater cost.

The museum's collection consists primarily of nearly 200 period artefacts, all locally-acquired, 150 of which were purchased in one lot from a man in Lillooet. Many of the artefacts within are common items associated with day to day life of the Chinese railroad workers, including home life and life on the job. Also in the collection are many cultural items used in religious rituals and other cultural events.

The following is from a framed marker at the museum:
A building located at this site served as a Chinese community centre and temple Traditionally, a Joss House is a place within a communal house where deities are set up on an altar for Chinese people to go and give thanks, or to pray for good health and peace.

Circa 1881, a building known as the Joss House was built for Chinese people in the Lytton area. It served as a guest house, community meeting space, and place of religion. Quan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy) and Shen Nong (the God of Agriculture) were among the deities honoured there.

The original building was typical of its time, with wood frame construction and wood siding. The entrance was from Lytton's Main Street and was more elaborate than the other three sides.

The interior of the Joss House was divided into three useful spaces: the main area where the altar and statues resided, a smaller room that served as a guest room, and a small caretakers quarters. When the two entrance doors were opened, the altar that housed the deities was clearly visible from the street.

The official opening of the temple, attended by local Chinese as well as by dignitaries from Victoria and New Westminster, took place in April 1883. Use of the Joss House declined by the turn of the century, and a neighbouring property owner acquired the building in 1928.
Lytton Joss House Site

Located on Main Street in downtown Lytton, British Columbia, this site was once the location of the Lytton Joss House, which served as a sacred building for the Chinese Canadian community in the area. As of May, 2017, it is the site of a new Chinese History Museum.

The site of the former Lytton Joss House has historical, cultural, social and spiritual value, particularly for its former use as a house of worship for Chinese Canadians.

Constructed in 1881 by Chinese workers who arrived in Lytton to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway, the place has high historical and spiritual value as the location of one of the first Joss Houses in B.C. and for its former use as an essential place of worship, spiritual sustenance and physical healing, and also as a gathering place for Chinese Canadians living, working and travelling through this area of the province.

Joss Houses were built throughout the province wherever Chinese migrants settled. The Lytton Joss House site is an important representation of the formerly common presence of Joss Houses along the Fraser River corridor, the Okanagan and the Kootenays. These places were dedicated to folk heroes, historical figures, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist deities, and local protector gods, which in the case of the Lytton Joss House were Kwan Yin (goddess of mercy), Shen Nong (patron of herbal medicine) and Zhu Rong (protector against fire, disease and anger).

The site of the Lytton Joss House is important as a tangible reminder of the substantial Chinese Canadian history and influence in Lytton and the surrounding region, through their work in railway construction, in gold mining, as merchants and as innovative vegetable farmers. Its prominent place in the community is noted in part through its central location within a substantial Chinatown that included stores, laundries, rooming houses, a cemetery and herbal medicine shops. The building faced towards the river as is usual in places dedicated to Kwan Yin.

The Lytton Joss House was culturally and socially important for providing spiritual support for Chinese Canadians in very difficult times. It also provided social and medical support through its purpose of taking care of sick and injured railway workers.

In its wood frame construction and wood siding, the building was typical of its time, but was combined with an interior arrangement specific to a Joss house, which customarily included a main shrine hall, guest room, caretaker's room and community meeting hall

Living spiritual and cultural values are embodied by the site, which is still recognized by local Buddhists as having spiritual power. In June of each year, the Lion's Gate Buddhist Priory, a branch of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, holds a ceremony dedicated to Kwan Yin at this location.

A lack of respect for Chinese sacred traditions is apparent in a land transaction in 1928, when the Joss House was sold to a local farmer by the Dominion Government despite protests from the Chinese community and the Consul-General of the Republic of China in Vancouver. The gods and goddesses were removed from the sacred building, which was then used for agricultural purposes.

The loss of the original Joss House is an intangible reminder of the devaluing of Chinese culture by the dominant European society.
From Historic Places Canada
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Type of Marker: Geographical / Natural History

Type of Sign: Historic Site or Building Marker

Describe the parking that is available nearby: Park on the street in front

What Agency placed the marker?: The Lytton Chinese History Museum

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