The Chinese New Year has brought good news for the Chinese community of Seychelles: the completion of the long-awaited Pagoda.
By the end of this month, the contractor will officially hand over the completed Chinese cultural centre to the Chinese Association of Seychelles.
Robert Chong Seng of the association said the facility, which will include shops and a restaurant, will soon welcome its first tenants. "It is expected that the centre will be operational as of March," Chong Seng told SNA.
The foundation stone of the new pagoda was laid in February 2014 during the first Seychelles-China day celebrations. The original timeline for completion was less than one year.
"But instead of 10 months as planned, the construction of this Pagoda took at least five years to be completed. We have a large loan from the bank which we are still paying back. We had no return on investment," explained Chong Seng.
In 2014, the entrepreneurs estimated the cost of the building at $660,000, but ultimately the cost of the project amounted to $1 million.
"We have also introduced a lottery to raise funds and we ask the Seychellois to help us complete this historic project," explained the chairperson, adding "the Chinese Embassy has also given us some help, depending on their jurisdiction."
Though the building looks nothing like the old Pagoda, it has maintained key features of Chinese architecture. From its roof down to its moon-shaped gate.
And one important feature from the old Pagoda will also be restored in the new centre. The shrines and the statue of Kuan Ti - the Chinese God of War - were removed when the building was demolished in May 2014 will now be returned.
The first arrival of the Chinese to the island nation dates back to 1863, where the first group arrived on a merchant ship. They were followed by a group of 23 other immigrants from Mauritius in 1886.
The pioneers built the pagoda in the early 1900s, after which it helped preserve Chinese traditions and housed new immigrants as it also became a hall class for Chinese culture lessons. From 1902 it was used as a place of worship.
There are about 2,000 members of the Chinese community in Seychelles. They play active roles in the political and economic development of the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. "This new pagoda will add value to the city and also attract tourists," said Chong Seng.