Wo Hing Chinese Museum and Taoist Temple in Maui, HI

Vacations are a great time to learn history. If you go to Maui, be sure to get a Passport to the Past for about $10, and that will get you into four museums. We only made it to two this trip, but we kept our cards, and hope to get to the next two museums next time.

The Mid 1800s

Americans constructing the continental railroad, in the United States and creating sugar plantations in Hawaii discovered the value of the hard-working Chinese in the mid-1800s. As the Qing dynasty began its long decline in China, men immigrated to Hawaii without their families to build many of the infrastructures we still enjoy today. On Maui, they made the Lahaina sea wall, tunnels through the mountains, the Road to Hana, and the irrigation systems for the sugar plantations.

Hawaii 2016 Wo Hing Taoist Temple sign

The Early 1900s

Chinatown in Lahaina began as single story stores and homes on Front Street. Single men needed places to stay and congregate. Beginning in 1909 the Wo Hing Society began to collect funds to erect a building that would house the Chinese Social Club and provided a place for worship and festivities. This is one of only two social houses that survived in Hawaii. Wo Hing, the society’s name written around the door, means peace and prosperity.  

Hawaii 2016 Wo Hing Taoist Temple

Wo Hing Society Hall

The Wo Hing Society Hall opened around 1912 and remained active into the 1940s. When the Chinese population in Lahaina moved to Honolulu to find work during World War II, the Wo Hing Temple and Club House fell into disrepair. Restored in 1983 by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, today it stands impressively restored on Front Street. There were several displays and a gift shop on the first floor.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Wo Hing Temple

The Museum

The docent told us that the age of the money encased glass box for public viewing dated back further than we thought possible. Paper money, called flying money, came into use in the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) as a larger denomination of currency to replace the bulky ‘bolt of silk’.”

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple Chinese paper money

Colorful Chinese paper money, though easier to carry than currency, had to be replaced or exchanged within three years.  By the late 1200s, at the end of the Song dynasty, paper money became preferred to coins.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple  paper money called flying money

The square hole in the center of the round Chinese coins had spiritual and practical value as well. A source stated the round shape symbolized heaven or the universe, while the square represented earth or China, which was the center of the universe. The holes allowed the bronze caster to line up the coins and scrape off the metal flashing around the edges. It also enabled consumers to string their money to carry it easily.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple round Chinese coins

Personally, I love both jade and dogs, so I headed right for these statues.  This pup is not nearly as cute as Puppy Girl, but these fierce-looking animals were guardian lions, not dogs. Westerners called them Lion dogs or Foo dogs. That is not to be confused with “foo foo” like Vince calls Puppy Girl after I spray “foo foo” smells on her after her bath. This male Lion Dog guards his embroidery ball with his foot.  Trust me, I didn’t try to take his toy away from him.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple jade lion dog statue

Just outside the door was the cookhouse. The cook probably had to prepare meals for a crowd, and he had a special building to work in. This practice curbed the fire danger to the main structure. Now the museum uses the cookhouse to show visitors films of Hawaii that were taken by Thomas Edison starting in 1898.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple Cookhouse Theater

This early film show intrigued me for several reasons. First of all the fact that it was made in 1898 and was still preserved amazed me. Additionally, the subjects of the different films fascinated me. In one short clip, we saw native Hawaiians rushing around in huge amounts of clothing. We learned at the Baldwin House that Mrs. Baldwin had taught the women to sew. These women must have loved their new skill.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple film made by Thomas Edison in Maui 1898

I enjoyed watching “cowboys” moving the cattle on and off the island. Men and cows both struggled as the cowboys pulled each animal into the water leading them with a rope around their necks. It looked and sounded impossible, but that technique must have been easier than loading five or six bulls onto small rowboats and pushing the tons of objecting bulls into the water. I guess the cattle had to swim beside the small boats.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple worship area with bowls and statue

Upstairs we saw the Taoist Temple replete with incense and fresh sacrifices of fruit and water. The temple area had few decorations or furniture. We visited a Taoist temple in Hanford, CA, and this looked much sparser and lighter.

Hawaii 2016 Taoist Temple bowl with incense

You will learn more about our visit to the Wo Hing Chinese Museum from my Australian blogging friend, Carol, the Eternal Traveler when she and her friend Justin Beaver start writing about their Hawaiian travels. I hope you enjoyed this short visit to the Chinese Wo Hing Museum.

Related Hawaiian Stories

Beat the Summer Heat – Vacation in Hawaii Aug. 18-25, 2019

  • Iao Needle in Iao valley State Park

My husband Vince and I own a timeshare with Diamond Resorts. I’ve already booked this luxury Hawaiian resort, Ka’anapali Beach Club, my favorite place in Maui for seven nights. At $150 per night, it’s less than Expedia – $199 per night. August 18-25, 2019. This offer at this price is good until May 19th.

Luxury Hawaiian Vacation Resort

Stay seven nights at the Ka’anapali Beach Club in Maui for seven nights. At $150 per night

$1,050.00

Week at Ka’anapali Beach Club (KBC)

Do you prefer to relax or be very active on a vacation?  Ka’anapali Beach Club, one of the Diamond Resorts in Maui, HI, might be a place you would enjoy.

Timeshare traveling – not time traveling  This is taken from V’s favorite table around the pool. 

Timeshare travel differs from regular travel, and there is an art to doing it.  Believe me, that is another skill I am learning as I move forward into retirement.  At age 50 I had never been to Hawaii, never thought I would ever get to go, and was just plain jealous of anyone who had ever been!  Things change.  Friends asked us to cruise around the Hawaiian islands with them.  We landed in Honolulu, Oahu, and visited Kona, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii.  At each island we had several hours to tour, either guided or on our own.  We fell in love with Maui, and during our free time there went on a timeshare tour.  Timeshare sales people in Maui are as ubiquitous as abizia trees.  We were in love with the idea, but not enough to part with tons of our hard earned capital.

We went back the next year with American Express points at the Westin.  The Westin was lovely and we talked them out of making us switch rooms mid-week.  We did not escape the OTHER Timeshare sales people in Lahaina.  Here was the deal, if we agreed to spend 90 minutes with a KBC salesperson, we got a boatload of discounts from the Expedia man.  I love discounts, so we did it.  (He’s still there by the way.)  At that KBC presentation we signed papers to buy a timeshare to come enjoy a scenic view suite in Maui every other year for the cost of only $11,500.  (Much better than $90.000 at the Westin).  Unfortunately for the timeshare woman, we (I) got cold feet, but not so cold that we didn’t want a timeshare.  Actually V’s feet were never even as warm as mine but he accommodates.

So we went back to Lahaina and visited the Timeshare RESALE salesman (different breed).  He sat in his office waiting for people to come to him, and NO free tours of anything.  We bought his KBC timeshare at a fraction of the other timeshare value – NO points – deed only, and he very generously cancelled our first contract with Diamond Resorts for 3,250 points.  That little tidbit of information plays into a future story.

our newly appointed living room in scenic view room 1132

The next year, our first time as owners, we tried to register to use our KBC timeshare, nobody could find a record that V & M existed, we convinced them that we were real, and we really did own a timeshare there.  The next couple of times we used our KBC timeshare, we walked gingerly past the timeshare updaters.  (That also plays into another post about this saga.)  We didn’t want to run into the poor sales woman who was so sweet, and bought our breakfast, and dinner.

The open lobby is filled with gentle breezes, birds chirping and sunburned people year-round.

This is our third visit here.  We loved the place.  It is large, newly furnished and upgraded.  It is not a new hotel.  They are not building many any of those now. KBC used to be Embassy Suites.  There are some downsides – sort of.  KBC doesn’t have a full kitchen like our Westin timeshare experience had.  On the other hand, it didn’t cost $90,000 per week.  It comes with a sink, full refrigerator and electric cooking equipment.  Do you know how much V and I wanted to cook in Hawaii?

our kitchen/dining room area

We have our favorite restaurants, and we try not to eat so much that all we do is eat and sleep.  Believe me that is hard!!!  We use the microwave, but we really don’t miss the stove.  If you have a large family, love to cook, and want to timeshare travel, I would recommend a different resort.  If you do like to cook, and many people are whizzes on the electric frypan, then go to Costco on the way from the airport.  Many people do – we got stuck in the parking lot, and thought we’d never get out.  Costco obviously didn’t contact a feng shui when they designed their parking lot in Maui.

The bedroom opens up to the living area as well as the bath area.

We purchased the one bedroom unit, no frills, no added benefits, no bringing friends or relatives at the same time.  But the bedroom is large and comfortable. This was the best shot I took to get an idea of the layout of the entire suite.  To the right of the dresser is a nice desk looking out on the scenic view, which by the way is a lot less expensive than the ocean view.  Both the closet door and the bathroom door go into the bathroom, so you can access your clothes from the bathroom – a VERY handy feature.

We both loved the bathroom.  I know, who wants to spend time in THERE when you are on a vacation?  Trust me when you come back with your swimming suit filled to the brim with sand because you can’t stand up in the surf, you appreciate the shower.  When you not only can’t stand in the surf, but you can’t get up once you get down, and pounding waves from all directions polish you like a rock or a shell before they toss you out of harm’s way, you appreciate a deep soaking tub.  When you go horseback riding, and can barely get off the poor, sweaty animal, foggily clinging to it until you can stand on your own two whatever they are… You get the picture.  The bathroom takes on importance in gigantic proportions.

Notice the ubiquitous abizias in the foreground. I labeled our room on this trip.

There’s a lot more to tell about this story than you want to read tonight.  However, I warn you, I took notes while I was there, so I wouldn’t forget so much.

Do you want to hear the rest of the story?