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As It Was: California Preserves 1874 Chinese Temple

Thousands of Chinese worked and lived in Northern California during the gold rush.  One of their Taoist temples of worship, the Weaverville Joss House, is the oldest continuously operating one in California.  It was built in 1874, replacing earlier structures destroyed by fire.

In 1934, thieves stole many interior artifacts, alarming preservationists.  In 1938, a descendant of one of Weaverville’s early Chinese settlers, Moon Lee, became the official trustee for the Temple.  In 1956, he and his wife, Dorothy, donated “The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds,” to the California State Parks.  The interior has been preserved as it was 100 years ago.

In 1983, the last Chinese caretaker, Moon Lim Lee, established the Weaverville Joss House Association.  Today the association assists the California park system in preserving the temple.

The Trinity County website says, in these words, “The true historical significance of the Joss House is that during China’s Cultural Revolution, many of the old rural-style temples were dismantled or destroyed. The Weaverville Joss House is an intact and complete temple of that era, which no longer exists in many parts of China.”
 

Source: "Weaverville Joss House Historic Park." Trinity County: Adventure Around Every Turn, Trinity County Visitors and Development Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, visittrinity.com/explore-history/joss-house/. Accessed 18 Oct. 2019

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.