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Funds sought to repair Kwock Hing Society Temple

Historical temple hosts important Chinese cultural celebrations

The Kwock Hing Society Temple still stands since being built in 1907 in Keokea, however, the building is showing major signs of age and needs repair. The temple has been a place for traditional celebrations, Chinese rituals, and education for generations. Photos courtesy Sarah Shim

A 114-year-old Keokea temple that’s hosted Chinese cultural celebrations for generations is in dire need of repair.

The Kwock Hing Society Temple has long been a place to celebrate Chinese rituals and traditions, share history and remember those who came before, but has only undergone minor fixes over its history in Upcountry.

The 1907 Keokea temple was the first two-story structure in the area at the time.

The building was placed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places in 1982 and the National Register of Historic Places later that year.

“Because it’s a historical building, we really can’t do a lot to it,” said Sarah Shim, president of Kwock Hing Society and board member of the Maui Chinese Club. “We are just trying to restore and repair what we have… . I want to fix it so we can add more rituals and so more people can come. Right now, it’s not safe so I cannot bring a lot of people and we can’t because of the pandemic, too, so in the future.”

The temple’s walls, roof, stairs and more need immediate attention due to rot, age, and weather. A fundraiser was launched recently to address the safety issues.

Shim described a variety of needed repairs and issues at the temple.

For example, the entryway needs immediate replacement due to wood separation and rotting, Shim said last week.

In the meeting and gathering annex, the entire wall needs replacement. The room has a large hole, which is temporarily patched with a rag, Shim added.

The kitchen roof also leaks water when it rains and the stairs to the temple have deteriorated and needs paint.

“So we’re trying to do what we can,” said Shim, who started a Go Fund Me page, which as of Sunday evening raised $1,036 out of the $3,000 goal.

Shim wants to maintain the temple for the next generation to enjoy.

Many of Shim’s relatives were founding members of the Kwock Hing Society, which started off as a men’s only society before expanding to women, she said. The family traces their genealogy back to Emperor Hwang Ti, China’s first emperor.

Kwock Hing Society Temple was also where Sun Yat-sen, who served as the provisional first president of the Republic of China, planned his overthrow of the Qing or Manchu Dynasty in the early 1900s.

Shim said they recently added a statue of Sun Yat-sen a few years ago.

“That’s why the building is significant, too,” she said. “We honor him and we do a genealogy picture series inside the temple so that people can appreciate who was alive during this time.”

Kwock Hing Society Temple over the years has became a gathering place for the community to learn about all the historical moments surrounding that location on Maui, such as viewing photographs of prominent Maui Chinese residents along with the beginnings of the Keokea area.

Shim explained how the building is considered a sacred place where blessings and special occasions are celebrated, like Chinese New Year festivals and rituals that honor the deceased.

They also “gather the community together,” including the youth and the elderly, to teach history lessons and the importance of passing knowledge down, she said.

“I need to continue to teach all this so that the younger generation can take over,” she said. “So that’s why I do a lot of talks– students come, I do some talks for schools, and citizens from Kaunoa, they come up and we’ll do a series with them, too.”

To donate, visit gofund.me/85e13340 or mail directly to Kwock Hing Society at 543 Middle Road in Kula, 96790.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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