The Chinese Diaspora around the world built clan associations 宗亲会 and guildhall 会馆 to help with their clansmen that had left their hometowns to seek a better life elsewhere. From simple lodging at first, to financial and scholarships assistance, to maintaining news from home in times of poor communications, these associations and guildhalls played a part in keeping the communities together.
Some were established as a place of worship to keep the traditions back at home. Yantai Fujian Guildhall (Hokkien Huaykuan 福建会馆), also known as Tianhou Palace 天后行宫, is located at the intersection of South Street and Shengli Road (Victory Road), Zhifu District, Yantai City. It was built in 1884 (the tenth year of Qing Guangxu 清光绪十年) and completed in 1906 (the thirty-second year of Qing Guangxu 清光绪三十二年).
It also functions as a temple dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu 妈祖 (the Virgin of Tianhou 天后圣母) funded by Fujian merchants.
The courtyard building has a typical Minnan style, and is also the only surviving Tianhou Palace with Minnan style in North China.
Empress Tianhou is the patron god for the sailors and seafarers and is worshipped to the modern day in South China in Taiwan, Macau, Fujian and Teochew, and by the Diaspora in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Fujian Guildhall was built as part of the ancient Maritime Silk Road from Fujian to Yantai.
The whole place consists of the main gate 山门, the main hall 大殿, the apse 后殿, the theatre platform 戏楼 and the wing-rooms 两厢, covering an area of 3,500 square meters. In 1958, it was established as the Yantai Museum 烟台市博物馆, and in 1996, it was announced by the State Council as a national key cultural relics protection unit.
Unfortunately when I was visiting the place, the compound was under a major renovation. The theatre and the main gate were all wrapped under the construction.
The paint on the wood carvings was stripped and waiting to get a new coat. But the intricate designs can still be clearly seen.
There’s still a few commercial operations that opened in the compound. Hopefully after the renovations, it will return to the original purpose of a place of worship and for social gatherings.
Visited in Apr 2022