"Gyllene Templet - The Golden Temple" by Håkan Wahlquist
The ´Golden Temple´ was brought from the United States to Sweden in 1986.
The more than 20.000 parts - now stored south of Stockholm - have since undergone careful and skilled restoration work, in anticipation of the temple being erected on a new location in Sweden.
Quite a lot of repair work and replacement work, though, remains to be performed .
A number of places for rebuilding the Temple have over the years been suggested; in various places in Sweden but primarily at a number of sites in or close to Stockholm.
The original plan in the 1980:ies was to locate it at Frösundavik just outside the city limit.
Then attention turned to locating it in close proximity to the Museum of Ethnography, which would have been ideal and in harmony with Sven Hedin’s original plans to locate a temple there.
The substantial collections of artefacts related to the Northern Buddhism of China, Tibet and Mongolia, which were acquired during Sven Hedin’s last expedition (1927-35), now primarily housed with the museum, were intended to adorn such a temple.
Sven Hedin in the beginning aspired to bring copies of two temples to the West; a copy of the Golden Temple from Jehol/Chengde to Chicago, and a copy of a temple from Inner Mongolia for Stockholm.
Funds eventually prevented the production of a Mongolian temple, and only the temple for Chicago was eventually produced. It is the temple which in 1986 was brought to Sweden
During the late 1920s and early 1930s Sven Hedin led a series of major international expeditions to China and Inner Asia Civil war had been raging for many years and the future looked bleak.
Sven Hedin, who had taken great interest in the cultural history of the region, nourished a hope that he would be able to save a temple from destruction, bringing it to Europe to be exhibited there. But still, in 1928 he had no funds to accomplish such a project.
During a visit to Chicago, in 1929, however, the idea was presented to Vincent Bendix, a wealthy industrialist of Swedish extraction.
He decided to financially support the project and Hedin was asked to look for two temples in China, Mongolia or Tibet, that could be acquired, dismantled and sent, one to Chicago, the other to Stockholm.
After extensively touring Inner Mongolia Sven Hedin was convinced that no old structure, available for sale, could be found. Instead he turned his interest to the Imperial Summer capital Jehol (Chengde), northeast of Beijing, where he decided upon the Golden Temple as the ideal structure.
This temple was, of course, impossible to remove, and thus, it was decided to build a new temple, modelled on the Golden Temple.
The most competent Chinese architect of those days, W H Liang, was asked to make exact drawings of the temple.
These were then used to build a temple that, in most respects, is a true copy of the Golden Temple in Jehol.
The very best craftsmen of Beijing were used and the temple they constructed is truly a tribute to the skill that then still existed among Chinese craftsmen.
The temple they built in 1930 is actually as genuine as the original from 1771.
As already told eventually only one temple could be built.
This temple was shipped to Chicago where it was reassembled and displayed at the ”A Century of Progress Exhibition” (1932-34). It turned out to be one of the major attractions of the exhibition.
The fate of the Golden Temple in the USA then took some strange turns.
Dismantled in 1938 and rebuilt again for the New York Fair in 1939 it was then in the early 1940:ies transferred to the Oberlin College in Ohio.
Several new owners, like Harvard and then Indiana University, acquired the temple with the intention, just like Oberlin College, to erect it in their premises.
Physically, however, it remained in Oberlin, though under increasingly bad conditions.
In 1983 it was transferred to a group from Cleveland, which obviously had no intention to fulfil its promise to erect it, but instead sell the best parts of it and leave the rest where it was, in the “Old Gashouse” in Oberlin,
The temple was rescued from this disaster when it was acquired by the Golden Temple Foundation, and shipped to Sweden.
After an unforeseen chain of events Sven Hedin’s original intentions could thus be fulfilled.
A temple could be erected in Sweden to be furnished like a Sino-Tibetan one, showing Western peoples the kind of architecture and religious art that had made such a strong impression on him.
As it happened the dream of the 1990:es of rebuilding it close to the Museum of Ethnography did not work out, and the effect is that, in the future, where ever its final foundation stone may be laid, it will remain divorced from what was intended to be its furnishing and contents.