In the middle of Houston’s western suburbs, unannounced by any signs, a striking white temple topped with a giant golden sphere emerges from a field of strip malls and two-story apartments.
The peculiar edifice, which is completely vacant and fenced off, is an attempted Taoist palace that was left abandoned after its creator was deported before her ambitious plans could be realized.
The Palace of the Golden Orbs, also known as Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace, sticks out like a sore thumb in the surrounding Texas landscape. The sanctuary of elegance and oddity features a 40-foot Epcot-style golden orb and two wide staircases ascending to the roof, mimicking those of Mexico’s Chich’en Itza temple.
The palace was the life’s work of Kwai Fun Wong, the leader of a Chinese Taoist organization who envisioned a grand Taoist complex of multiple buildings, together offering worship, daycare, retail, and residential living. To pursue this vision, she purchased 11 acres of land in 1999 and began constructing its palatial centerpiece.
Unfortunately, Kwai Fun Wong’s work was abruptly interrupted in 2001, when she was deported for failing to solidify permanent residency, permanently ending all construction of the palace. Since the project was abandoned 16 years ago, no one has bothered to tear the temple down. The empty palace is mostly unknown and slowly deteriorating, but it remains upright, a monument to a visionary dream that was never realized.