The Ng Shing Gung, or Temple of the Five Gods, was built in San Jose’s Heinlenville Chinatown in 1888 at Taylor and Cleveland Streets. The rear of the building faced onto 6th Street. The ground floor functioned as a community center with a Chinese calligraphy and literature classroom for children. It also served as a hostel for travelers who did not belong to any of the local family associations. An elaborately carved and gilded altar stood on the second floor. The temple housed statues of five divinities: Kwan Yin, Goddess of Mercy; Choi Sun, God of Wealth; Cheng Huan, God of Canton City; Kwan Gung, God of Loyalty and Righteousness; and Tien Hou, Queen of Heaven.
The historic photo on this page (reprinted with permission from the San Jose Historical Museum) shows the Ng Shing Gung decorated with paper figures for San Jose Chinatown’s Da Jui celebration.
By the 1930s, many of Heinlenville’s original residents had passed on. Their children had grown up and integrated into the community at large, and the Chinese Exclusion Act had prevented new arrivals from China. When the Heinlenville estate declared bankruptcy, Heinlenville became the property of the City of San Jose, which razed the area with the exception of the Ng Shing Gung.
Despite the objections of Clyde Arbuckle and other local historians, this last remnant of Heinlenville, was dismantled in 1949. This piece of history was recovered, when the Ng Shing Gung was replicated and dedicated to the community by the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project on September 29, 1991. CHCP also established a long term maintenance trust fund of $45,000 to ensure the building will be kept up in future years.
The Ng Shing Gung is now part of History Park, located in Kelley Park, San Jose. Today it serves as the Chinese American Historical Museum with exhibits depicting the history and culture of Chinese and Chinese Americans in the Santa Clara Valley. Highlights of the museum include the original 1888 gilded altar, statues of the five gods, and Home Base: A Chinatown Called Heinlenville, a video by Oscar-winning documentary film maker Jessica Yu, which depicts the life and contributions of the Chinese Americans in the last Chinatown in San Jose. (This video may be ordered by mail separately or as a part of the Golden Legacy curriculum for a donation.)
The museum is open the 1st and 3rd Sundays every month (some holidays excepted) from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, and is also open for special events. Check our Upcoming Events calendar for full details.
CHCP recruits and trains museum docents. Visit our Volunteer webpage for information on this and other volunteer positions.
Below is a slideshow of photos of the Chinese American Historical Museum (be sure to place your cursor over each photo to display a ‘tip’ that you can read that describes each photo):
Below is a virtual tour of the museum, courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute:
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