Of the three buildings in the large Edward St site, it was this temple, the Chapel of Good Fortune, which was meant to house the celebrations for the Year of Rat next Thursday, February 7.
The roof and all the contents of the century-old chapel, a spiritual and cultural centre for Sydney's Chinese community, was completely destroyed by the fire.
Glebe Fire Station station manager Bill Sheedy, one of the first to arrive at the scene, said the fire is being treated as suspicious.
"The flames were going through the roof, which usually indicates the fire has escalated quickly and that perhaps an accelerant had been used," he said.
"We were not able to ascertain the direct cause of the fire, but suspect it was arson."
Police and forensic investigators established a crime scene yesterday and examined the wreck to try and determine the cause of the fire.
Sergeant Ian Miller said officers doorknocked the neighbouring streets yesterday trying to find witnesses.
"We are canvassing the area and speaking to neighbours to see if anyone saw anything," Sgt Miller said.