Located in Terreti Bazar area, near Lal Bazaar police headquarters, Blackburn Lane safeguards a slice of Chinatown in the city of Calcutta, where the Chinese had settled as early as the 1780’s. A red and white building on the lane houses the Toong On Church, which is not really a church, a Chinese temple, dedicated to the warrior God Kwan-Ti.
The plot of land was purchased by the Cantonese migrants from Koon Tong in 1917 and the temple, completed in 1924, was dedicated to the Kwan-Ti or Guan Yu, a general of the Han Dynasty, who played a commendable role in the civil war that ended the Dynasty. With the passing of time, the historical incident transformed into legendary story and Kwan-Ti became the warrior god, worshipped in Taoism as well as Chinese Buddhism where he is revered as Sangharama Bodhisattva.
Traditionally, the deity is portrayed with a red face, elaborated with long and suspended moustache. His weapon is called Guandao, a heavy blade with a spike at the back, mounted on a 5 to 6 foot long wooden or metal pole
The temple is on the first floor of the building, while the ground floor housed the Nanking Restaurant, which closed its doors in the late 1970s. Today, there are two massive buildings of Calcutta Telephones to the south and west of the Toong On Church building. Initially, Calcutta Telephones had the intention to take over the temple building and demolish it for their proposed building. However, after the end of a long legal battle, the court sided with the temple trust, put a stop to the sale and ultimately the temple trust regained the control of the property.
In the meantime, the condition of the beautiful building became pathetic, due to lack of maintenance. In addition to that, the municipality placed garbage dump, next to the entrance to the temple. However, due to the untiring effort spearheaded by the Cha Project, the temple finally got a new life, as the building was restored and became graceful again, with a fresh coat of paint.
Recently, on 19th March 2013, a beautiful, serene Buddha statute was installed at Toong On Church with the chanting of mantras by the Buddhist monks.