This article is kindly provided by the See Yup Society:

On the 17 February 2024 there was a major fire at the heritage listed See Yup Temple in South Melbourne. Built in 1866, this is the oldest continuously operating Chinese temple in Australia. An initial assessment of the damage to the Temple reveals that it is confined solely to the main building. Fortunately, the Ancestral halls, the God of Fortune, and the Kuan Yi buildings remain unscathed by the fire, with minimal water damage. While the cause of the fire appears to be an electrical fault and not suspicious, investigations are ongoing, and details may evolve pending the release of the final report.

Several crucial activities have been initiated by the Society:

  1. Securing the Temple premises.
  2. Conducting assessments on the structural integrity and safety of the Temple.
  3. Evaluating the extent of damage to the Temple's historically significant artifacts.
  4. Prioritizing administrative processes and controls to ensure effective management.

Since the occurrence of the fire just over ten days ago, significant progress has been made, particularly in the "Make Safe" phase. Construction engineers are currently on-site, meticulously assessing the structural stability of the building, particularly in light of the collapsed roof of the main hall. Urgent measures are being taken to erect a temporary roof to safeguard the Temple and its invaluable artifacts from potential rain damage.

Furthermore, expert artifact conservationists, endorsed by Heritage Victoria, are actively engaged in meticulously assessing the damage and determining the most appropriate restoration methods for the Temple's artifacts. The unwavering support of Heritage Victoria is instrumental in facilitating the restoration process, ensuring compliance with the Temple's heritage status, protected by the Victorian Government.

Remarkably, despite the extensive damage suffered by the Guan Di Temple Building, the Guan Di altar within the main building remains untouched by the fire. This testament to the religious devotion of the Guan Di Temple stands as a symbol of resilience amidst adversity. Many fragile and intricate artifacts have emerged from the fire with minimal damage. Professional conservators continue to assess what has survived. We will diligently progress towards their protection and eventual display upon the Temple's reopening.

In summary, the fire's impact was confined to the main building, particularly its front centre, sparing the rear altars from harm. Notably, the Ancestral halls and adjacent buildings housing the God of Fortune and Kuan Yi remain unaffected. We are thankful to the expertise of the fire fighters who worked to put out the fire so quickly and with such care. The outpouring of support from various organizations, communities, government departments, and the Chinese Consulate is deeply appreciated, and the Temple extends heartfelt gratitude to all who have offered assistance during this challenging time.

Banner image: The See Yup Temple in South Melbourne was built in 1866. (Supplied: Wikimedia)