Following the 1860 discovery of gold at
what would become Pierce, Idaho, thousands
of miners rushed to the area. By 1865 Chinese miners were allowed in the
Pierce mining district. Once the Chinese were permitted, they were quick
Situated at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, and
accessible to the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River, Lewiston, Idaho,
became a point of destination for miners and mining supplies. As Idaho's
only seaport, Lewiston saw a boom in its economy and growth due to the
discovery of gold seventy-five miles northwest of its river location at
Pierce, Idaho. As was often the case with such 19th century discoveries
of gold, both Chinese miners and support personnel flocked to the area. Although the 1870 census showed only 71 within Lewiston's
boundaries, an additional 675 Chinese people were counted in nearby
mining areas. Almost all were men.
Most of the Chinese who came to Lewiston
during the late nineteenth century were from the Toishan
district of southern China's Guangdong Province, a rural area of the Chu
Jiang (Pearl River) delta. These immigrants brought their religion with
them and practiced it here until the latter part of the twentieth
century. Their religious belief system, a form of Taoism, combined
elements of Confucianism and Buddhism with traditional
folk practices and mythology.
known area temple was destroyed by fire in March 1875, only ten years after
the first Chinese arrived in Lewiston. Its successor was probably built
by mid-November of that year. About 1888 Lewiston's Chinese community
began to collect money to build a new temple, and in 1890 purchased
property on C Street in what is now Lewiston's historic downtown. The new temple remained there until 1959.
The Hip Sing Tong Exhibit
(Chinese Temple Exhibit)
In their homeland, the Chinese had a
long tradition of clan, district, and fraternal organizations. The vast
majority of such Chinese men's tongs, or associations, were law-abiding
bodies that existed
mainly to provide social interaction and benevolent services to their
As a secret society, there is much we do
not know about its organization and practices, though a 1948 newspaper
article and photograph give clues to many of the Hip Sing Tong's
furnishing, some of which are displayed in the exhibit.
Funding for the restoration,
conservation and installation of this exhibit was provided, in part, by
the Idaho Humanities Council, the Idaho Heritage Trust, the Lewis-Clark
Educational Assistance & Development Foundation, and the Idaho
Commission on the Arts.
Liet Sing Gung
Translation: "Palace of Many Gods"