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Lytton Joss House Site

145 Main Street, Lytton, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2016/01/27

View of Lytton BC, 1885, showing original Joss House at left (nearest building). Photo: City of Vancouver Archives Can N133.; City of Vancouver Archives, Can N133
Joss House at Lytton, 1885 (left, closest building)
Opening of replica Joss House (Lytton Chinese History Museum), Lytton, May 13, 2017. Photo: Lorna Fandrich; Lorna Fandrich, 2017
Opening of Lytton Chinese History Museum, 2017
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Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2017/06/02

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Located on Main Street in downtown Lytton, British Columbia, this site was once the location of the Lytton Joss House, which served as a sacred building for the Chinese Canadian community in the area. As of May, 2017, it is the site of a new Chinese History Museum.

Heritage Value

The site of the former Lytton Joss House has historical, cultural, social and spiritual value, particularly for its former use as a house of worship for Chinese Canadians. .

Constructed in 1881 by Chinese workers who arrived in Lytton to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway, the place has high historical and spiritual value as the location of one of the first Joss Houses in B.C. and for its former use as an essential place of worship, spiritual sustenance and physical healing, and also as a gathering place for Chinese Canadians living, working and travelling through this area of the province.

Joss Houses were built throughout the province wherever Chinese migrants settled. The Lytton Joss House site is an important representation of the formerly common presence of Joss Houses along the Fraser River corridor, the Okanagan and the Kootenays. These places were dedicated to folk heroes, historical figures, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist deities, and local protector gods, which in the case of the Lytton Joss House were Kwan Yin (goddess of mercy), Shen Nong (patron of herbal medicine) and Zhu Rong (protector against fire, disease and anger).

The site of the Lytton Joss House is important as a tangible reminder of the substantial Chinese Canadian history and influence in Lytton and the surrounding region, through their work in railway construction, in gold mining, as merchants and as innovative vegetable farmers. Its prominent place in the community is noted in part through its central location within a substantial Chinatown that included stores, laundries, rooming houses, a cemetery and herbal medicine shops. The building faced towards the river as is usual in places dedicated to Kwan Yin.

The Lytton Joss House was culturally and socially important for providing spiritual support for Chinese Canadians in very difficult times. It also provided social and medical support through its purpose of taking care of sick and injured railway workers.

In its wood frame construction and wood siding, the building was typical of its time, but was combined with an interior arrangement specific to a Joss house, which customarily included a main shrine hall, guest room, caretaker's room and community meeting hall.

Living spiritual and cultural values are embodied by the site, which is still recognized by local Buddhists as having spiritual power. In June of each year, the Lion's Gate Buddhist Priory, a branch of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, holds a ceremony dedicated to Kwan Yin at this location.

A lack of respect for Chinese sacred traditions is apparent in a land transaction in 1928, when the Joss House was sold to a local farmer by the Dominion Government despite protests from the Chinese community and the Consul-General of the Republic of China in Vancouver. The gods and goddesses were removed from the sacred building, which was then used for agricultural purposes.

The loss of the original Joss House is an intangible reminder of the devaluing of Chinese culture by the dominant European society.

Source: Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch

Character-Defining Elements

Not applicable.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Province of British Columbia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Conservation Act, s.18

Recognition Type

Provincially Recognized Heritage Site (Recognized)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1928/01/01 to 1928/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality
Building Social and Community Life
Community Organizations
Peopling the Land
Migration and Immigration

Function - Category and Type



Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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