News & Tall Tales

San Francisco 1800s.

Buddhist Temple at San Francisco

° Chinese in San Francisco ° Chinese Interpreters ° Anti-Coolie Tax  ° Chinese Merchants  ° Buddhist Temple 1856 ° Little Pete ° Opium (China, Europe, North America)

December 6, 1856, Illustrated Times, London, United Kingdom

The Chinese emigrating to California have of late years been so numerous, that they have organized themselves into an association, and established their headquarters in the town of San Francisco. This association numbers upwards of nine thousand, the greater part of whom are employed in the various factories and places of business. The most wealthy and intelligent of the members reside in San Francisco, and have there erected a large brick building, which is used as a refuge for their poor, an hospital for their sick, a depot for their articles of trade, and an office for the directors of the association. A portion of the building is reserved for the celebration of their religious rites, which they now allow the "barbarians" to witness. The interior of the temple is separated from the general building by a long passage, leading into a large hall. On each side of the hall are placed seats made of ebony wood, and covered with a blue stuff elaborately embroidered in red silk. From this hall access is obtained to the chapel; and of the chapel a good idea will be formed from the accompanying engraving.

Kong Chow Temple in Chinatown, San Francisco

On a large table, placed immediately in front of the altar, and richly painted, stand lighted tapers and three metal vases. The lid of one of these vases is formed by the distorted body of a dragon, from whose open jaws the smoke of the burning incense issues. Next to this is another table, on which are laid out dishes of roasted pork, a ram, a boiled chicken, and a variety of stews, sweetmeats, cakes, and perfumed matches, which burn slowly and without flame. The altar, seen beyond the tables, is most curiously carved, elaborately gilded, and painted with highly glazed colors. In the centre is placed the idol, or rather image, of Ching Tal, a famous Chinese warrior, whose bravery on earth was so great that he was deified. The figure, which is seated, is life-size, and the face, painted red, makes a striking contrast with the white enamel of the eyes and the large black moustaches. The robes of the figure are profusely ornamented with jewels.

The roof of this chapel is covered with a number of strips of wood, on which are painted a variety of religious maxims, which are devoutly read by the faithful. Brilliantly-painted lanterns illuminate the chapel.

This edifice has been built at considerable expense, the whole of the decorations having been procured from China. Many persons, while witnessing the various ceremonies, have been struck with their analogy to those performed in Christian places of worship, particularly in Roman Catholic churches.

September 14, 1866, Daily Alta California, San Francsico


CHINESE RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL -- The annual festival of the How Wong Temple on Sacramento street, above Dupont, commenced on Wednesday morning and concluded last evening. This morning, the wilderness of indescribable ornaments in gilt, paper, wood and other materials, the gigantic figures of monsters unknown to the outside barbarian students of natural history, banners, feathers, incense burners, and other paraphernalia of the temple, will be removed, and at 10 A.M. the burning of a few cart loads of fire-crackers will announce that everything has passed off satisfactorily and the "season" has closed successfully. This temple, like several others in the city, is supported by subscriptions from believers in the Buddhist faith, whose names are conspicuously posted on an immense vermilion colored sheet, with an elaborately illustrated border and crimson cord, at the entrance of the establishment. The festival is not general, but pertains to this temple exclusively, and the services which have been going on for the past two days are for the benefit of the subscribers to the temple fund only, although the public are freely admitted. Visiting the place yesterday, we found a number of American and European ladies looking on at the ceremonies, while every nook and corner of the temple -- a limited affair in dimensions at best -- was crowded to its utmost capacity with Chinese.

The air was dust with the smoke of burning incense, and the day being hot and the room close, it was rather difficult remaining long therein. The Chinese in attendance were exceedingly polite and attentive to their Caucasian visitors, some of whom we regret to say showed but a poor appreciation of the courtesies extended them, and must have impressed their hosts with anything but a favorable idea of the manners and early education of our people.

The ceremonies did not differ materially from those held annually in other temples, with which our citizens are generally familiar and need not be described. The number of grotesque figures of men, deities, animals, and nondescript monsters, scattered about the temple in all parts, was very large, and on some of them an infinite amount of labor and not a little money had evidently been lavished.

October 9, 1867, Daily Alta California, San Francsico

In the matter of the Kong Chow Beneficial Society and Asylum for leave to mortgage real estate, permission was granted for them to mortgage a lot of land on the north line of Pine street, 95 feet west from the northwest corner of Pine and Kearny, for the sum of $5,000.

The Naval Order of the United States has a history dating from 1890. Membership includes a wide range of individuals, many with highly distinguished career paths.

The San Francisco Commandery meets the first Monday of each month at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in San Francisco, California and holds two formal dinners each year.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




Kindly Contribute to help us provide new information for you.


DALevy @
164 Robles Way
Suite 237
Vallejo, CA 94591

Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

Please inform us if you link from your site. Please do NOT link from your site unless your site specifically relates to immigration in the 1800s, family history, maritime history, international seaports, and/or California history.