The Ng Shing Gung was built in San Jose’s Heinlenville Chinatown in 1888. The ground floor functioned as a community center with a Chinese calligraphy and literature classroom for children. 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 War and Justice; and Tien Hou, Queen of Heaven.
The historic photo on this page (reprinted with permission of 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. In 1991, this piece of history was recovered, when the Ng Shing Gung was replicated and dedicated it to the community by the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. CHCP also established a long term maintainence trust fund of $45,000 to ensure the building will be kept up in future years.
The Ng Shing Gun is now part of the History Park, at Kelley Park, San Jose. Today it serves as museum with exhibits 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 Santa Clara Valley. (This video may be ordered by mail and is also available on the Golden Legacy CD-ROM as an MPEG file.
History San José recruits and trains docents. Shifts are normally 4 hours long. Call the Museum, 408-287-2290, to volunteer or to obtain more information.