Holy Triad Temple


To avoid the temple’s demolition, the Chinese Club were invited to consider the temple’s condition and make recommendations. The Chinese Temple Society was formed and lobbied the Queensland Government successfully for the temple’s restoration and ongoing purpose as a place of worship. Restoration commenced in 1965, including retrieving and replacing the stolen and vandalised original movable objects. The temple reopened in 1966. A new caretaker’s residence was added to the western side of the temple, and in the 1970s, a new Buddhist temple was added on the western side of the caretaker’s residence. By the mid-1980s, the restoration and additions were completed. In 1992, the Holy Triad Temple was entered into the Queensland Heritage Register.

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The Holy Triad Temple main doors.
(John Oxley Library, Amos photography collection, 1976)

For almost 60 years after its opening in 1886, the Holy Triad Temple had served as a place of worship and celebration for Brisbane's Chinese community. However, with an aging first generation of Chinese migrants disappearing, and the second generation Chinese taking on western culture and religion, the temple gradually fell into disrepair. By the mid-1950s, having suffered vandalism, souveniring and fire damage, the temple was deserted, with only a caretaker in attendance.

In the early-1960s, the Brisbane City Council deemed the building unsafe and considered demolishing it. The Chinese Club, who had formed in the 1950s as Brisbane's first recognisably homogenous Chinese group, were invited to form a committee to consider the state of the temple. On behalf of the Chinese Club, Eddie Liu successfully lobbied the Queensland Government to return the then derelict Holy Triad Temple at Breakfast Creek to the Chinese Temple Society. The Chinese Temple Society were subsequently granted responsibility for the temple's restoration and continued care through an Act of the Queensland Parliament.

The incorporation of the Chinese Temple Society enabled the ownership of the temple by the society on behalf of the local Chinese community, and ensured that the property was maintained and would continue to be used as a place of worship. In 1964, the Chinese Temple Society submitted its constitution for the restoration of the temple as a place of worship in accordance with traditional Chinese practise and customs.

The constitution stipulated the provision to engage and accommodate caretakers, to maintain and improve the buildings and grounds, to enable visitors to the temple and to enable fund-raising and acceptance of donations to achieve these provisions. The constitution entitled all Chinese residents of Queensland, and those of Chinese extraction to be members of the Temple Society.

With this, the Chinese community began the arduous task of restoring the building to its former glory. During the 1965-66 restoration, the middle roof section, which had been removed, was repositioned. Much of the original interior decoration, which had been either salvaged or vandalised, was replaced. All but one of the original furnishing were located, retrieved and returned to their original places. However, the actual original, replacement or added status of all movable objects currently in the temple remains unclear.

The temple was restored and extended, reopening in June 1966. As a requirement of the Temple Society Act 1964, a caretaker's residence was constructed as an annex on the western side of the temple. This residence conformed more to a suburban Queensland brick house than to traditional temple architecture. As a barrier against evil spirits, the spirit wall opposing the temple's entrance, had never been completed. During the 1960s restoration, Sou San of the Chinese Temple Society commenced the painting of a dragon without being able to complete it. In the 1970s, a Buddhist shrine was built on the western side of the new caretaker's residence. Much of the grounds have been concreted, and a large wall has also been constructed around the perimeter of the temple complex. The dragon painting on the spirit wall was completed in 1985, 100 years after the temple's construction.

By the 1980s, 77 per cent of Brisbane's Chinese community were Christian, with the remainder either Buddhist or of no religious affiliation. The Holy Triad Temple had become more of a monument to a past age, than a place of worship. An increase in ethnic Chinese migrating from South East Asia after 1978 brought a resurgence of the Buddhist traditions which saw an increased frequency of visitors to the temple. By 1986, 20 per cent of Brisbane's Chinese community were visiting the temple to pray at least once per year.

On 21 October 1992, the Holy Triad Temple was entered into the Queensland Heritage Register as built heritage that is 'significant as evidence of the development of Chinese settlement in nineteenth century Brisbane'; and 'significant as a rare example of a nineteenth century Chinese temple in Queensland'. Over the years, the temple has come to be sandwiched into a small back street between the Albion Park racecourse grandstand, the Breakfast Creek Hotel, and industrial developments. Its former view of Breakfast Creek has been long gone.

During the late 19th century, Chinese migrants erected temples on most of Queensland’s goldfields, in many towns and in ports. Only three remain:the Holy Triad Temple, the Chun Lo Goon Temple in Rockhampton, and the Hou Wang Temple at Atherton.

Today, the original structure of the Holy Triad Temple stands as it did in 1886, continuing to offer a focus for various Chinese communities. It also serves to remind its visitors of the cultural and historical significance of the almost 170 year presence of Brisbane's Chinese community.

  • Amos, J & B. Caretaker's 1976 descriptions of the Holy Triad Temple accompanying photographs. John Oxley Library, box:16277. 2010.
  • Beattie, GW. 'The Settlement and Integration of the Chinese in Brisbane'. PhD Thesis, University of Queensland, 1986.
  • Fisher, J. 'The Brisbane Overseas Chinese Community 1860s to 1970s:Enigma or Conformity'. PhD Thesis, University of Queensland, 2005.
  • Mok, J. Multicultural Trailblazers. Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland & Multicultural Community Centre, Brisbane, 2004, p. 11
  • Queensland Heritage Register. The Holy Triad Temple, ID:600056, 2013.
  • Queensland State Archives. Chinese in Queensland.
  • Queensland State Archives. Digital Image ID:1898, 2013.