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TEMPLES & SHRINES - 2  庙宇莊厳殿堂清静 
金山西北角 - 华裔研究中心
This page was last updated: August 11, 2017
(UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED ALL DATA ON THIS PAGE COMES FROM THE EDITORS' OWN RESEARCH ON PRIMARY SOURCES & ARTIFACTS)
It is often said that traditional Chinese had three religions: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism (or Taoism).  This may have been true in the 19th century back in China, even though Confucius was never worshiped as a god.  But it was not true in 19th century California.  Most Chinese there had only one rather mixed religion, and never three.  

There were no temples to Confucius in early North American Chinatowns.  Until quite recently, none of those Chinatowns even had a statue of him.  And they had very few temples dedicated solely to the worship of Buddha.  One of the temples in the Oroville (California) complex, a now-vanished temple in San Francisco, and a possible exclusively Buddhist temple in Lytton, British Columbia are exceptions.  But otherwise, the only signs of Buddhism in early North American Chinese communities were images of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, in non-Buddhist temples.  Those temples were not Buddhist but Daoist, belonging to the most popular and most deeply-rooted religion among early Chinese on this continent.  Gold miners, railroad builders, farmers, gamblers, laundrymen, and just about all other Chinese Americans focused their rites and prayers on Daoist deities and donated their money to places for Daoist worship.  

Some people call these Daoist deities “saints,” because many were once living beings who subsequently became divine.  But the term is misleading.  Saints in Euro-American culture have no divine power themselves.  While many Christians believe saints can intercede with God to cure illness, aid the afflicted, and so forth, no one thinks they can do those things without Divine aid.  In traditional Chinese eyes, however, all Daoist deities are independently powerful, whether—like Guan Yin and Bei Di—they have always been gods or whether—like Tian Hou and Guan Di—they are former humans who have become gods.  All can confer blessings directly, not indirectly like a Christian saint who has to intercede with a higher being.  If you pray to Tian Hou, the Queen of Heaven, for a son or for safety during a storm, she is the one who confers or withholds those blessings.  And prayers by soldiers or students to Guan Di, the God of War, Literature, and Brotherhood are answered not by a higher-level authority but by Guan Di himself. 

Numerous Daoist gods were and are worshiped in China, but only a limited selection seem to have made it to this side of the Pacific.  The most important deities in Canada and the United States were as follows: 
Bei Di 北帝, God of the North.  In the U.S. and Canada, he was known by at least two names: the North God (Bei Di in Mandarin and Bok Dai, Pak Tei, Pak Tie, Bok Kai, Buck Eye, and Beuk Aie in Cantonese and/or Taishanese), and, more formally, as the Lord of the Dark Heavens (玄天上帝 Xuantian Shangdi).  Modern martial artists revere him too.  They call him "Dark Warrior" (玄武 Xuan Wu) or "True Warrior" (真武 Zhen Wu).  He is believed to preside over the North, the color of which is black.  Unlike Guan Di and Tian Hou who are deified mortals, Bei Di has always been a celestial being, embodying the Great Dipper constellation. 

One of his most famous temples, surely known by repute to all early Chinese immigrants in California, is the Ancestor Temple in Foshan near Guangzhou, which commemorates his miraculous driving off of a hostile army in the 15th century.  He also has the power to contriol fire, to summon rain, and to regulate water flow, henc is seen as a preventer of floods and fire.  He is shown in either military or official clothes, usually bald or with a bald forhead, armed with his seven-star sword, and often with a tortoise and snake under or next to his shoeless feet. Fresno Historical Society. 1880s?  Photo by Ruth Lang, Fresno Historical Society.
Cai Shen 财神, God of Wealth, is a popular but relatively minor deity.  His name is invoked during Chinese New Year celebrations.  In statues and pictures, he appears in the dress of a court official, sometimes with a gold ingot in his hand.  Won Lim Temple, 云林庙 Weaverville, California, 1870s-80s.
Guan Di 关帝, God of War and Brotherhood.  A historical figure of the 3rd century AD, Guan 关羽 over the years became a symbol for military skill and unshakeable integrity as the hero of dramas and early novels like the extraordinarily popular Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义.  Within a few centuries of his death he began to be seen as a god.  He received grand titles like Guan Gong (Duke of Guan), Guan Di (sometimes spelled Kwan-ti), and Wu Di 武帝 (Warrior Emperor).  Because of his courage and loyalty to his comrades, he continues to be revered by soldiers, police, criminals, and fraternal societies of all sorts.  He is almost always depicted with a red face, slanting eyes of the kind known as phoenix eyes, and a beard made of five long strands, wearing either armor or civilian official clothes, and holding his favorite weapon, an enormous axe-like halberd.  Hongmen Dart Coon Club Shrine 洪门达权社 , Vancouver, British Columba, 1890s-1900s.
Guan Yin 观音or Kun Yum (in Cantonese) and Kannon (in Japanese), the Goddess of Mercy.  Often the only Buddhist on a Daoist altar, she is the Chinese version of the Indian Buddhist deity Avalokitesvara.  She is a bodhisattva, one who has achieved enlightenment but refused to enter Nirvana (and become a true Buddha) out of compassion for suffering beings.  While no bodhisattva has gender, Chinese usually think of her as being female: especially concerned for women and children, immensely powerful, benevolent, loving, and venerated by just about everyone—Buddhists, Daoists, and even agnostics.  She can be recognized by her costume, which in male Indian style exposes the upper part of her chest and her headdress which often includes a small Buddha.  Statues or pictures of her are usually present not only in Buddhist but also in Daoist temples, in positions of varying importance.  This and a statue in Weaverville's Won Lim Temple are probably the only surviving images of her owned by American Chinese before 1900.  Kong Chow Association Shrine 冈州会馆, Los Angeles, California, 1880s-1890s.
Hua Tuo 华陀, God of Medicine.  A former mortal, Hua Tuo is said to have cured Guan Di from a poison arrow wound and later to have been executed by Guan Di’s merciless enemy, Cao Cao 曹操.  His ideas of surgery, acupuncture, and tai chi movements had an important influence on later Chinese medicine and led to his coming to be seen as a god within a few centuries of his death.  He is sometimes shown holding a bottle or gourd containing herbal medicine.  Early images of Hua Tuo appear in the Marysville and Weaverville temples.  Bok Kai Temple 北溪庙, Marysville, California, 1880s.
Jin Hua 金花 (华) 娘娘 or Lady Golden Flower.  A southern Chinese virgin deity already popular in 17th century Guangzhou, Jin Hua is especially popular among women.  She helps with women’s and young children’s health: with pregnancy, delivery, and pediatric problems, a cult connected with Bixia Yuanjin 碧霞元君, the Lady of the Azure Cloud, an important goddess in northern Chins.  One of Jin Hua's traditional symbols is an elaborate phoenix head-gear.  However, that is not obvious here, where she is draped with a red ribbon. Bok Kai Temple, 北溪庙Marysville, California, 1880s.
Suijing Bo 绥 靖 伯 (the Pacifying Duke) is less famous nowadays, although noted in his earthly life (the 13th century) as a fighter against bandits and after deification as a protector against epidemics.  The latter role contributed to the spread of reverence for him during the 19th century, from a few temples in Guangdong to many towns in southern China and Southeast Asia.  The authors know of five temples in North America that once featured him as a chief deity, including the temple complex at Oroville.  Because his mortal surname was Chen, most Chen (Chin/Chinn/ Chan) clan associations place his image or name on the altars of their shrines.  Chens in Oroville built a separate structure for his shrine.  This image in that shrine is the finest in North America.  Chan Shrine  绥 靖 伯 , Chinese Temple Museum, Oroville, California, 19th century.
Tam Gong (Tam Kung) 谭公 is a Daoist deity, popular in the South China around Hong Kong and Macau but also worshiped in Malaysia, British Columbia, and formerly inSan Francisco.  He was a real human being—a member of the Hakka speech group—who lived in Kowloon, Hong Kong, in the 13th century.  One story has it that he aided the last emperor of the Song dynasty, an 8 year-old boy, in his flight from the invading armies of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan in about 1380.   Tam Kung with the rest of his Hakka community were executed by the Mongols for his patriotic efforts.  Later he was deified and temples were built in his honor.  Tam Kung Temple 谭公, Victoria, British Columbia, 19th century.
Tian Hou or Tin How 天后, the Empress of Heaven, is a semi-historical figure of the 10th century who became a goddess through her virtue and her power to save sailors from storms at sea.  In America, she was probably the second most popular deity among early Chinese.  She too has acquired numerous titles, like “Goddess of Heaven” and “Mazu” 妈祖 (Most Revered Mother).    She can often be recognized by her empress’s headdress, a horizontal board with a row of tassels hanging down in front.  Each of the three temples we discuss in this book has a statue of her, all sharing similar features.   The Tin How Temple on Waverly Place in San Francisco is famous among Chinese worshipers and non-Chinese tourists.  Although the current version of the San Francisco temple is not old, the city had at least two temples dedicated to Tian Hou before the 1906 Earthquake.  In Chinese eyes, one or both of those Tian Hou temples ranked with the most sacred places in North America.  Ng Shing Gung Temple 五圣宫, San Jose, California, 1880s-90s.  
Tu Di 土地 the Earth God.  Although rarely the main deity of any Daoist temple, He is present as a statue or name tablet in almost all of them.  Learned Daoists point out that he is not a specific deity but an office filled by a benevolent, popular local soul.  Ordinary people do not make this distinction, however.  Shrines of Tu Di are everywhere – in homes, shops, temples, and even cemeteries, often located directly on the ground.  He is depicted as an elderly, well-dressed man with a calm smile and a peaceful pose, usually seated.   In California he seems to have had special importance among miners.  This may be because, as god of all things in the ground, he controls deposits of minerals, including gold.. The nose of this particular image has been broken off.  Won Lim Temple 云林庙, Weaverville, California, 1870s-80s.  









The Gods of Chinese in North America  美洲早期华人庙宇神祇名录
Numerous early Chinese temples in North America were not dedicated to a specific deity.  Instead, they were called Leisheng Gong or, in Cantonese, Liet Sing Gung: “Temple of Many Gods.”  [The word “sheng” is sometimes translated as “saints.”  This is incorrect if used outside a Christian context.  Although many Chinese deities are former mortals, after deification they have gained the authority of true divinities: that is, unlike Christian saints or angels, they are not only immortal but can exert their powers independently without the help or permission of any other deity.]
The Leisheng Gong name appears on or in at least 10 surviving Chinese temples in the U.S. and Canada: in Victoria, Seattle, and Lewiston in the Northwest and in Auburn, Bakersfield, Marysville, Nevada City, Oroville, Chico, San Francisco, and Weaverville in California.
In other cases, temples seem to have two names, representing either a transition from one name to the other or the coexistence of different functions.  A transition process may be under way at two temples usually called by names indicating dedication to the North God, Beuk Aie in Lewiston and Bok Kai in Marysville.  Those names have long been regularly used by white and Chinese residents.  Yet neither temple has furnishings that show a primary focus on the North God, and both are still formally called “Leishenggong” on their lintel boards and in other ritual inscriptions.  
In two cases, the relevant artifacts are portable and located in places of worship that may never have featured multiple deities.  Currently in the well-known Tin How Temple in San Francisco and a non-public Gee How Oak Tin shrine in Seattle, these must have come from other, now-vanished temples in their areas.
In Weaverville, the use of two names may indicate not a transition but the coexistence of ritual functions.  The Weaverville temple is known to modern visitors as  Won Lim Miao, the Cloud Forest Temple.  The name is an old one.  However, it is not the poetic thought  it appears to be but instead a reference to a ritual text of the Hong Shun Tong/ Chee Kung Tong secret society.  Judging from other inscriptions at the temple, Won Lim often served intensely private, not to say secret, purposes.  And yet its entrance also bears the Liesheng Gong name.  A set of written rules preserved in the temple makes it clear that this other name is not a historical accident.   The building was often open to public worship.  The resulting cash, food, ritual goods, and fireworks were seen as important benefits by the local temple committee, which seems to have been under the thumb of the Hong Shun Tong.  
Temples primarily of the multi-deity type include two of the most important and richly furnished in North America: the one now housed in the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association’s building in Victoria and the main temple at Oroville.   The former seems to have already been a leisheng gong in 1885, when it was taken over by the newly established CCBA and rebuilt as a source of revenue.  The latter has no other name.  As far as is known, it was considered to be a multi-deity temple as early as 1863, the date of its earliest dedication board, which is also the second oldest known Chinese American artifact
We are not sure whether the presence of a Leishenggong inscription on the front panel of the main altar from Grass Valley's former Hou Wang temple, now in the Firehouse Museum in Nevada City, represents a transition or an effort by a single-deity temple to accommodate devotees of other deities.  Hou Wang, an minor deity worshiped mainly by Zhongshanese, might not have attracted other Cantonese, forcing the temple's owners to admit other deities.
Leisheng Gong or Temple of Many Gods  列圣宫, 何其多
Click on the image to see the complete object
Entrance Lintel Board, Oroville
Censer in Wugong set, CCBA, Victoria
Click on the image to see the complete object
Click on the image to see the complete object
Click on the image to see the complete object
Click on the image to see the complete object
Temple parade Fan, Seattle
Brass Censer Set, San Francisco
Portable shrine, Marysville
Altar Shrine Enclosure, Lewiston
Altar Facade, Grass Valley
Entrance Sign, Weaverville
Numerous early Chinese temples in North America were not dedicated to a specific deity.  Instead, they were called Leishenggong or, in Cantonese, Liet Sing Gung: “Temple of Many Gods.”  [The word “sheng” is sometimes translated as “saints.”  This is incorrect if used outside a Christian context.  Although many Chinese deities are former mortals, after deification they have gained the authority of true divinities: that is, unlike Christian saints or angels, they are not only immortal but can exert their powers independently without the help or permission of any other deity.]
The Leishenggong name appears on or in at least 10 surviving Chinese temples in the U.S. and Canada: in Victoria, Seattle, and Lewiston in the Northwest and in Auburn, Bakersfield, Marysville, Nevada City, Oroville, San Francisco, and Weaverville in California.
In other cases, temples seem to have two names, representing either a transition from one name to the other or the coexistence of different functions.  A transition process may be under way at two temples usually called by names indicating dedication to the North God, Beuk Aie in Lewiston and Bok Kai in Marysville.  Those names have long been regularly used by white and Chinese residents.  Yet neither temple has furnishings that show a primary focus on the North God, and both are still formally called “Leishenggong” on their lintel boards and in other ritual inscriptions.  
In two cases, the relevant artifacts are portable and located in places of worship that may never have featured multiple deities.  Currently in the well-known Tin How Temple in San Francisco and a non-public Gee How Oak Tin shrine in Seattle, these must have come from other, now-vanished temples in their areas.
In Weaverville, the use of two names may indicate not a transition but the coexistence of ritual functions.  The Weaverville temple is known to modern visitors as  Won Lim Miao, the Cloud Forest Temple.  The name is an old one.  However, it is not the poetic thought  it appears to be but instead a reference to a ritual text of the Hong Men/ Chee Kung Tong secret society.  Judging from other inscriptions at the temple, Won Lim often served intensely private, not to say secret, purposes.  And yet its entrance also bears the lieshenggong name.  A set of written rules preserved in the temple makes it clear that this other name is not a historical accident.   The building was often open to public worship.  The resulting cash, food, ritual goods, and fireworks were seen as important benefits by the Hong Men leadership.  
Temples primarily of the multi-deity type include two of the most important and richly furnished in North America: the one now housed in the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association’s building in Victoria and the main temple at Oroville.   The former seems to have already been a leishenggong in 1885, when it was taken over by the newly established CCBA and rebuilt as a source of revenue.  The latter has no other name.  As far as is known, it was considered to be a multi-deity temple as early as 1863, the date of its earliest dedication board, which is also the oldest known Chinese American artifact
We are not sure whether the presence of a Leishenggong inscription on the front panel of the main altar from Grass Valley's former Hou Wang temple, now in the Firehouse Museum in Nevada City, represents a transition or an effort by a single-deity temple to accommodate devotees of other deities.  Hou Wang, an minor deity worshiped mainly by Zhongshanese, might not have attracted other Cantonese, forcing the temple's owners to admit other deities.
Leishenggong  列圣宫 (Cantonese Liet Sing Gung): Multi-Deity Temples
Click on the image to see the complete object
Entrance Lintel Board, Oroville
Censer in Wugong set, Victoria
Click on the image to see the complete object
Click on the image to see the complete object
Click on the image to see the complete object
Click on the image to see the complete object
Temple Weapon Fan, Seattle
Brass Censer Set, San Francisco
Temple Palanquin, Marysville
Altar Shrine Enclosure, Lewiston
Altar Facade, Grass Valley
Entrance Sign, Weaverville

This Land Is Our Land: Conference 2017
Chinese Pluralities Through the Americas
An International Conference of the Chinese Historical Society of America
Conference Dates: October 6–8, 2017, San Francisco 


CINARC's panel 

  October 8, 2017 (Day 3, Sunday) 
4-5:50 pm Concurrent Sessions 6.  Room Columbus III

The Social Role of Traditional Chinese Religion in Nineteenth Century America

CONFERENCE PROGRAM 
Place:  Yuba County Library, 303 Second Street, Marysville, CA
Day 1:  3/12/2016 (Saturday)


Panel A.  1:45-3:20  
"Active Temples:  Management, Preservation, and Promotion"

  Chair:  Chuimei Ho (Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee, Bainbridge Island, WA)
  Welcoming speech:  Richard Lim (Marysville Chinese Community/Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, CA)
  Honorable Benjamin Z. Wirtschafter (Yuba County Superior Court, CA)

  Speakers: 
   Richard Lim (Marysville Chinese Community/Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, CA).
“The Success of the Bok Kai Temple 
  Eugene Moy (Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA). 
“Kong Chow Temple of Los Angeles:  Preserving the Spirit of the Homeland and the Spirit of the
Pioneers of Chinatown”  
  Susan Woon (Tin How Temple, San Francisco, CA).  
I have served Tianhou for Two Decades, for Myself and Chinese Tradition”
  John Adams (Discover The Past, Victoria, B.C. Canada).
“The Tam Kung Temple in Victoria, B.C.” 

  Commentators:  
Victor Yue (Chinese Temple & Taoist Heritage Studies, Singapore) 
Gordon Tom (Chinese American Museum of Northern California, Marysville)
         Sue Cejer-Moyres (Yuba County Historic Resurce Commission, CA)


Panel B.  3:50- 5:10  
"Inactive Temples:  Preservation and Touristic Potential"

  Chair:  Brian Tom (Chinese American Museum of Northern California, Marysville) 

  Speakers:    
 Jack Frost (California Department of Parks & Recreation, Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park, Weaverville)  
Weaverville’s Won Lim Temple and Its Recent History”   
  Lorna Fandrich (Kumsheen Rafting Resort, Lytton, B.C.)  
Reconstructing a Chinese Temple in Lytton, British Columbia” 
           Victor Yue (Chinese Temple & Taoist Heritage Studies, Singapore)
                "Chinese Temples in Singapore - Decline and Resurgence of Interest in our Cultural Heritage"

  Commentators:  
Gerrye Wong (Chinese Historical & Cultural Project, History/San Jose, San Jose, CA)
Briana Struckmeyer (Visit Yuba-Sutter and the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce, CA)

  Reception & Forum:  6:30-8:30 pm  
  Forum: “Where do we go from here? – Brainstorming and Networking.”     
  Co-chair:  Brian Tom (CAMNC-Marysville) & Chuimei Ho (CINARC)



Day 2:  3/13/2016 (Sunday)


Panel C.  9:00- 10:15  
"Museums:  Preservation and Touristic Potential of Temple Heritage Collections"

  Chair: Jonathan H.X. Lee (Asian-American Studies, College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University)
  Welcoming Speech:  Councilman Bill Simmons, Marysville

  Speakers:  
  Lyle Wirtanen (Nez Perce County Historical Society, Lewiston, ID): 
Chinese Temple Heritage Collections in Lewiston:  Their preservation and Tourism Potential” 
  Ruth Lang (Fresno Historical Society, Fresno, CA) 
Saved, Preserved, and Hidden: Fresno’s Chinese Altars”   
  Sarah Lim (Merced County Court House Museum, Merced, CA).  
“Chinese Temple Exhibit at the Courthouse Museum: Benefits and Challenges”
  Liisa Penner (Clatsop County Historical Society, Astoria, OR)
“Significance of the Bo On Tong Altar in the Exhibits of the Clatsop County Historical Society”

  Commentators:  
Wallace Hagaman (Nevada County Historical Society--Fire House No. 1 Museum, CA);  
John Adams (Discover The Past, Victoria, B.C.)


Panel D.   10:45- 12:00  
"Chinese-American Museums:  Role, Funding, and Interpretation of Religious Collections."

  Chair: Sarah Lim (Merced County Court House Museum, Merced, CA)
  
  Speakers: 
   Christian Jochim & Allan Low (Chinese Historical & Cultural Project (CHCP), San Jose, CA)
“Role of Chinese American Historical Museum (CAHM, aka Ng Shing Gung, “Temple of the Five Deities”)
  Eugene Moy (Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA)
“Los Angeles Chinatown as a Living History Museum, and the Role of the Kong Chow Temple 
and its Collections in Chinatown’s Future”
  Brian Tom (Chinese-American Museum of Northern California, Marysville, CA).
“The Role of Chinese American Museums and Chinese Temples and Religion

  Commentators:  
  Paul G. Chace (Paul G. Chace & Associates, Escondidio, CA)
 Bennet Bronson (CINARC, Bainbridge Island, WA)
         
  Concluding Remarks:  
Lyle Wirtanen (Nez Perce County Historical Society, Lewiston, ID)  
Richard Lim (Marysville Chinese Community/Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, CA)

  Dinner:  6:30-8:30 


Optional Events:

3/12.  11:00-12:00  Bok Kai Temple Parade.  Downtown Marysville.  
3/12-13. Tour 1 –   Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, opens 10-5.  Self-guided tour.       
3/12.  Tour 2 –  5:10- 5:50 pm.  Chinese American Museum of Northern California, Marysville.  Leader: Brian Tom
3/12.  Forum – 6:30-8:30 pm.  Yuba County Library, Second Street, Marysville 
3/13.  Tour 3 – 12:30-3:50.  Oroville Chinese Temple.  Leader:  Ben Bronson 
3/13.  Tour 3b -  1:00-2:10.  Pioneer Cemetery, Marysville (to be confirmed).  Leader:  Brian Tom
3/13.  Tour 4 –  2:30-3:10 pm Chinese American Museum of Northern California, Marysville
3/13.  4:00-5:00. Bomb Contest Viewing.  First Street/C Street.   
3/13.  6:30-8:30  Dinner, Dragon Inn. 1016 G Street, Marysville.  

CONFERENCE 

Temples and Museums: Managing and Interpreting Historic Cultural Assets

庙宇-博物馆会议: 管理与傳承

Date: March 12-13, 2016
Place:  Yuba County Library, 303 Second Street, Marysville, California


The four organizations below are organizing a two-day conference in Marysville, California, to be held during the well-known Bok Kai Festival of that city.  While we feel the many new Chinese-American museums do an excellent job of preserving and studying the history of Chinese immigrants in America, we also believe that Chinese temples, as the oldest and most visually impressive Chinese-American cultural objects, can play an especially important role in reaching the same goal.  The fact that most Chinese temples in America have now become museums or been incorporated into museums shows a close connection between the two types of cultural-social entities.

We chose to hold the conference in connection with Marysville’s Bok Kai Temple because we feel that such temples are crucially important in understanding how traditional religion supported the lives and eventual success of Chinese North American immigrants.  They were at one time community centers, social service agencies, art galleries, and religious houses combined.  

Similar temples once were numerous but now are mostly gone.  The one in Marysville is the oldest Chinese temple in North America to be still an active center of worship, having remained such continuously for the past 136 years.  Knowledge of how it has remained independent and alive, and what place it still occupies in modern communities, is essential for those interested in preserving and interpreting the cultural heritage of all persons of Chinese descent.

We feel there is much to be learned by asking broad questions about Chinese religion, temples, and museums.   Have the temples that are converted into museums done well in terms of attendance, such as those in Oroville and San Jose?  What about established museums that have absorbed temple components, such as those in Merced and Nevada City? Have those components been well received?  Have they been interpreted sensitively and interestingly?  What are the reasons that some museums have retired Chinese American religious objects into storage?  Are other museums reinstalling shrines in their galleries mainly for reasons of visual appeal or are they trying to tell a more culturally relevant story?  Is Marysville’s Bok Kai Temple at risk of losing its primary religious function, and becoming a museum as well?  Are religious exhibits in newer cultural entities such as Chinese-American museums moving in the direction of becoming active shrines?  Can those exhibits be freer in interpreting the Chinese religious past while being sensitive to concerns of Christians and Muslims viewers and museum workers?  What challenges do temples share with museums?  How do they stay relevant to fast-changing ethnic populations and newer generations of attendees?  
 
Conference Organizers 


1. Marysville Chinese Community/Bok Kai Temple, 
    Marysville, CA.
    http://www.bokkaitemple.com/

2. Chinese American Museum of Northern California,
    Marysville, CA. 
    http://www.chineseamericanmuseum.com/

3. Chinese-American Museum of Chicago – Raymond
    B. & Jean T. Lee Center, Chicago, IL.
    http://www.ccamuseum.org/

4.Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee 
   (CINARC), Bainbridge Island, WA
   http://www.cinarc.org/
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The Tam Kung Temple in Victoria, B.C.

John Adams
Owner, Discover The Past, Victoria, B.C. Canada

Tam Kung (谭 公), literally meaning Lord Tam, is one of thousands of gods in the Chinese pantheon. In addition to his temple in Victoria, the only one known to exist outside of Asia, he is worshipped in Huizhou (the city in Guangdong where it is believed he was born), in Hong Kong, Macao and Malaysia. Fishermen consider him to be their protector. He is usually depicted as a clean-shaven boy holding a bell in his hand.

The statuette of Tam Kung has gazed serenely from an imposing red wooden shrine on the top floor of the Yen Wo Society’s headquarters at 1713½ Government Street since the building was erected in 1911, but the statuette and temples associated with him have much older origins in Victoria. The story passed down through several generations of the Ngai family (), traditional keepers of the temple, was that the deity came to the city with a Hakka man in the 1860s and that he had set it up in or beside his own house.  There it remained until the 1870s when Ngai Ou Sze had a dream in which Tam Kung told him he needed a proper temple. He and ten other Hakkas raised funds to lease a structure where the deity was installed. Through the late 1800s the temple moved to several locations within Chinatown. In 1894 the Yen Wo Society started to build an impressive one-story brick structure for this purpose.

It was the most visually prominent Chinese temple in the city and the only one in Victoria’s Chinatown ever known to be built more or less according to traditional Chinese temple design. The only known photograph of the temple shows a traditional temple roof behind a decorative brick wall and wooden entrance gate. The temple was constructed of brick and the main hall had a slate roof with decorative cresting along the ridge.

In 1911 the 1894 brick temple was demolished and a new three-story brick building arose on the site. The Tam Kung Temple was moved to its top floor. This temple has been in continuous use since then and is now the only Chinese temple still regularly used by worshippers in Victoria. It also has the distinction of being the oldest Chinese temple in continuous use in Canada.

Abstracts of Presentations
Re-constructing a Chinese Temple in Lytton British Columbia

Lorna Fandrich
Owner, Kumsheen Whitewater Rafting, Lytton, B.C

The isolated village of Lytton was once home to one of the oldest Chinese temples in British Columbia, Canada.  Constructed in the late 1870s, the small temple served as a spiritual place and community center for Chinese gold miners, railway workers, and merchants.  It was destroyed in the 1920s.

Currently, a project is underway to reconstruct Lytton’s Chinese temple and create a Chinese-Canadian museum. The project is being led by Lorna Fandrich, a Lytton businesswoman.  Its purpose is twofold: to honor and respect the Chinese role in Lytton’s past, and to attract tourism to Lytton, thereby enabling the project to be self-sustaining.

The development of a tourism strategy is integral to the success of this project. Lytton has a mere 227 inhabitants, so the Chinese temple museum must rely on the attendance of non-locals for funding and support. Mrs. Fandrich, who has a background in tourism, will discuss strategies for using tourism to create a sustainable business model for a small temple museum.

In addition to the tourism/business aspect, consideration must also be given to the religious character of the original building. This museum will not be a functioning temple; however, it will include a spiritual space for open meditation and study. Mrs. Fandrich will touch on her approach to remaining sensitive to and respectful of the religious aspect of the Chinese temple museum.

Weaverville's Won Lim Temple and Its Recent History

Jack Frost
 California State Department of Parks and Recreation 
Weaverville Won Lim Temple 

My presentation will talk about how a small Northern California Chinese community built and supported their Taoist Temple and how, after many of the Chinese left the area, it ultimately became a California State Historic Park.

For the past 59 years the California State Parks has been responsible not only for the preservation and upkeep of the Won Lim Temple 雲林廟 but also the proper interpretation, which for those of us who do not speak Cantonese or read the calligraphy is always a challenge. Not only is the interpretation an ongoing challenge, the funding for the basic everyday operations and the temple preservation has become a major difficulty with both state funds and public donations getting harder to obtain. Our partnership with the Weaverville Joss House Association, a California not-for-Profit Corporation, has greatly improved our ability to maintain and preserve one of California’s most unique cultural treasures.

RoIe of Chinese American Historical Museum 
(CAHM, aka Ng Shing Gung, “Temple of the Five Deities”)

Christian Jochim (Secretary) & Allan Low (Treasurer)
Chinese Historical and Cultural Project (CHCP), San Jose

The Chinese American Historical Museum, or Ng Shing Gung 五聖宫, (19th century temple) was reconstructed to preserve the memory of the Heinlenville (a San Jose Chinatown), its residents, and their descendants as well as the broader history and culture of Chinese Americans in Santa Clara County, CA.  It was reconstructed to preserve the artifacts (temple interior objects in storage for about 40 years after the temple was demolished in 1949) and put them on display for public viewing.  It was reconstructed to educate visitors to San Jose History Park (a branch of the local history organization, History San Jose (HSJ)) about the historical functions of Ng Shing Gung as a community center and place of ritual activity as well as about the content of various displays (timeline, archeological artifacts, donated objects, and so forth).



















Funding for CAHM
Initial reconstruction (completed 1991) was funded by a major ($800,000) fundraising campaign in the late 1980s. Maintenance, above and beyond routine maintenance by HSJ, is funded from the Ng Shing Gung Capital Maintenance Fund, with annual deposits from City of San Jose, History San Jose, and CHCP.  Exhibit development and enhancement is accomplished with funds from periodic fundraising events held, for example, on key anniversary dates of CHCP and CAHM.  Support for special Chinese American cultural events at History Park and tours for special groups of visitors comes from the CHCP annual operating budget.

Interpretation
Human resources: CHCP Officers and Directors have an obligation to serve as interpreters at least once per year; student docents are trained to provide interpretation through the CHCP Student Docent Project; HSJ docents are trained to provide basic information about CAHM on tours of History trained Park. Content interpretation: Explain timeline of local, US, and Chinese history and other exhibits on the first floor of CAHM; introduce the second floor altar artifacts by reference to their symbolic significance as well as the historical context of their use; provide a visitor activated audio explanation of the altar, with accompanying lighting to identify objects as they are described by the sound track; play the video "Homebase: A Chinatown called Heinlenville" on a large screen TV, so that visitors will have an understanding of the community in the area where NSG once stood.

Saved, Preserved, and Hidden: Fresno’s Chinese Altars

Ruth Lang 
Operations and Collections Manager, Fresno Historical Society, Fresno, CA

I will describe the efforts of the Society’s members fifty years ago to save and preserve two Chinese altars currently housed in the Society’s archives.  I will report on the Society’s recent partnership with the Fresno State History Department and experts in 19th century Chinese religious and cultural history to properly date and interpret these important artifacts.  I will also discuss the role the Chinese played in the development of the Central Valley and greater Fresno area, including the stories of several prominent Chinese pioneers from the region.   

The Success of the Bok Kai Temple

Ric Lim
President, Marysville Chinese Community

The Bok Kai Temple 北溪廟 has survived many changes over the years. It has gone from having priests conduct or help worshippers to caretakers taking the role. The city of Marysville has helped the temple by allowing the celebrations to continue with the traditional customs brought from China. They have continued to allow firecrackers and the firing of the bomb within the city limits. I will discuss what draws worshippers to the temple. I will describe what is being done to preserve the temple as the Chinese population continues to decline. I will share our concerns with the aging of the remaining Chinese population. It is my desire to keep the temple opened for worshippers and visitors to enjoy.

Chinese Temple Exhibit at the Courthouse Museum: 
Benefits and Challenges

Sarah Lim
Director, Merced County Court House Museum, Merced, CA
 
According to historians Chuimei Ho and Ben Bronson who visited Merced in 2014, the Courthouse Museum exhibit includes the oldest existing intact Chinese altar in North America. In light of this revelation, Sarah has studied the origins of the altar which has been a permanent feature of the museum since 1983. In this presentation, she will talk about the history of the altar both as a Taoist shrine in Merced’s Chinatown and as a Courthouse Museum exhibit. She will apply the concentric circles approach in interpreting the Chinese temple exhibit, and finally she will discuss the public perception of the Chinese temple exhibit as a cultural education or as a promotion of a specific ethnic group. 

Kong Chow Temple of Los Angeles:   Preserving the spirit 
of the homeland and the spirit of the pioneers of Chinatown
(Panel A) 

Eugene Moy
Board Member, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA


The Kong Chow region in Guangdong Province has developed its identity over a period of more than 1400 years.  The cluster of counties or districts within Kong Chow has been a major source of migrants in a worldwide diaspora.  While the region did not retain an official governmental identity as Kong Chow over the centuries, many of the migrants from the various districts, subdistricts, or counties that evolved continued to refer to their home region as “Kong Chow”.   Even as many Chinese migrants joined individual district, clan or surname organizations in the U.S. and California, many also became members of the Kong Chow Benevolent Association because it represented the larger home region.

The Los Angeles Kong Chow Benevolent Association 冈州会馆 is an outgrowth of the organization established in San Francisco in 1849-1851.  Los Angeles Chinatown development began in the 1850’s, and an informal Kong Chow entity operated until its formal organization in 1891. The two-story association hall on Ferguson Alley contained a temple on the second floor.  The association and its temple operated in place for almost sixty years, until about 1950, when it was displaced, along with the rest of the block (which contained the remnants of Old Chinatown not displaced by Union Passenger Terminal construction a dozen years earlier) for construction of a freeway onramp.  The temple’s contents were placed in storage and reassembled on the second floor of a new building in 1960 in New Chinatown.  Many of the sign boards which had been calligraphed for various occasions over the decades, such as for a visit by a Chinese dignitary, were relocated to a hallway and storage area adjacent to the new temple.  

My presentation at the panel will discuss:
a)   the relevance of the old temple, which includes representations of various gods and spiritual figures, and temple
        furnishings such as altars and ritual objects, to the current Chinatown community.
b)   how the Kong Chow Association maintains and presents the temple to the community.
c)   the significance of newer temples resulting from more recent migrations.
d)   thoughts on long term goals for curation of Kong Chow Temple furnishings, and maintaining the temple as a cultural
        and spiritual resource for the future.

Los Angeles Chinatown as a living history museum, and the role of the Kong Chow Temple and its collections in Chinatown’s future 
(Panel D) 

Eugene Moy
Board Member, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

L.A. Chinatown has been a part of historic Los Angeles for over 150 years, while the Kong Chow Temple 冈州庙 has been a part of Chinatown for 125 years.  Almost all of the historic core of Chinatown has been demolished, save for a small grouping of buildings, part of which is occupied by the Chinese American Museum. The Chinese American Museum (CAM) and the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California (CHSSC) are two organizations that interpret LA Chinese American history for the general public.

To share the history with the larger public, both organizations sponsor guided walking tours to explore the heritage of Chinatown.   However, only a few buildings remain from the historic core, and their interiors and uses have been considerably altered.  Only one institution, the Kong Chow Temple of 1891, has retained much of its original interior ambience, though in a different location.  Neither the CHSSC or CAM have conducted any kind of inventory of potential historic religious collections, as most of the historic family and district associations were forced out of their original locations in Old Chinatown, most did not have a formal temple, there has been considerable turnover in association leadership, and  it is unknown if any historic religious collections have been preserved by the associations.   
 
The discussion will focus on approaches toward the preservation, maintenance, and further interpretation of the Kong Chow Temple’s historic collections.


Significance of the Bo On Tong Altar
to the Exhibits of the Clatsop County Historical Society

Liisa (Arlene) Penner
Archivist, Clatsop County Historical Society, Astoria, OR

One of the most dramatic exhibit items in the Clatsop County Historical Society’s Heritage Museum is a Chinese altar that had belonged to the Bo On Tong 保安堂 in what was once a thriving Chinatown on the waterfront in Astoria. By the 1950s, there were few Chinese left in Astoria as a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the overharvest of salmon resulting in the closing of most of the canneries.

The historical society at the time of the donation of the altar had recently been allowed to operate an old county-owned mansion as a museum. Kee Wong Brown, an elderly man who had worshipped before the Bo On shrine as a 13 year-old boy, was invited to the historical society to talk about his memories of the altar. However, museum management in the 1950s was an informal affair with little or no description of donations in the record books. Museum workers were volunteers drawn from the interested members who had no special training in museum work. At the time when people were still living in Astoria who could have contributed valuable information, it was not solicited. Newspaper stories provide more details, but are still inadequate. Without information about the Chinese community, the altar stands as little more than “visual appeal.”

Little if anything was preserved of the Chinese community at the museum apart from the Bo On altar. And not much was preserved of the Native Americans or the East Indians community or the Finnish immigrants or the Yugoslavians. History here for many years centered about the early pioneers who crossed the plains from the East Coast or the Midwest. This narrow view of our history came about through prejudice. It should be remembered that anti-miscegenation laws continued in the State of Oregon until the 1950s or that it wasn’t many years ago that the City of Astoria did not allow Chinese to be buried in the city cemetery.

When professional leadership was brought to the historical society in the 1980s, value was finally placed on the immigrants who arrived here from all over the world. Our exhibits are expanding to cover the once forgotten people. We are now looking to other museums and organizations to help us recover the information we have lost.


The Role of Chinese American Museums and 
Chinese Temples and Religion

Brian Tom
Director, Chinese American Museum of Northern California, Marysville, CA

Though temples played an important role in the life of the early Chinatowns, many Chinese American museums do not have an exhibit on Chinese temples. Marysvilleʼs Chinatown built one of the earliest temples in California when the Bok Kai Temple was opened in 1852 on Front Street. Thirty years later it moved two blocks to the west to itʼs present location. It is now the only Chinese temple dating back to the Gold Rush that is still active and open to worshippers.

Because of the importance of the Bok Kai Temple to the Marysville Chinatown, the Chinese American Museum of Northern California has always had a temple exhibit. Included in the exhibit are pictures of the surviving early temples of California and altars located in local museums. Yet this exhibit is only a beginning effort. Still to be developed in this exhibit is a review of the Chinese religions, a contrast between eastern and western religions and the impact of religion on the early Chinese pioneers.

Across the street from the Museum and one block away from the Temple is the location of the old Presbyterian Mission, a mission dedicated to converting the Chinese pioneers to Christianity. How did these two religious institutions relate to each other?  Who were the worshippers at these respective institutions? Was there cross membership between would be Christians and those that believed in the Chinese gods? What were the differences and similarities between the western God and the eastern gods? How can Chinese American museums bring about better understanding between Chinese and Americans through exhibits of Chinese temples?

More than half a century ago, anthropologist Francis L. K. Hsu explored the differences between eastern and western religions as they applied to the Chinese in America. Western religions are exclusive, he points out. They are monotheistic with one true God. Eastern religions are inclusive. They are polytheistic and recognize many gods. One result, he writes, is “that the Chinese have never been very much concerned with nonbelievers or blasphemers against their gods.” He goes on to point out “that the religious differences between the missionary and the pagan are rarely resolved by bloodshed, but those between different monotheistic creeds and denominations that worship the same god have often led to wars of extermination and prolonged periods of mass persecution. 

Chinese Heritage Temple Collections in Lewiston, Idaho

Lyle Witanen 
former Director, Nez Perce County Historical Society, Lewiston, ID


This paper discusses the background of a nine year process of retelling the history of the Chinese in North Central Idaho. That process began with an annual two-day conference that occurred from 2008 to 2012 in Lewiston, Idaho. On the first day, the conference featured guest speakers/scholars who addressed topics related to Chinese history in the region. On the second day the attendees were escorted on an interpreted jet boat tour into Hells Canyon to sites once thought to have been occupied by Chinese miners and, specifically, to the site of a massacre of 34 Chinese miners in 1887. A lasting memorial was placed at the site of the massacre during the last year of the conference. 

In 2012-2013, the co-coordinators of the conference were responsible for the placement, updating, and interpretation of the Beuk Aie temple and the Hip Sing Tong altar at the Lewis Clark Center for Arts & History. These Chinese artifacts may be some of the finest on the west coast.  Currently, the Nez Perce County Historical Society is establishing a permanent exhibit devoted to the history of the Chinese in Lewiston. 

Additional topics of the paper include ideas for promoting tourism and preservation of cultural artifacts related to Chinese history.  A unique opportunity has developed for Lewiston. For the last two years, Lewiston has been visited by a cruise ship that navigates the Columbia and Snake rivers from Portland to Lewiston. Each trip includes some 200 passengers for the upriver trip and a new group of 200 visitors for the downriver trip. The ship completes this trip every two weeks from early April until early November. While they are in Lewiston, the visitors are taken to visit the Beuk Aie temple exhibit and the exhibits at the county historical museum. 
I have served Tianhou for two Decades,
for Myself and Chinese Traditions

Susan Woon
Keeper, Tin How Temple, San Francisco


The Tin How Temple in San Francisco was one of the earliest Chinese temples in America, built in the early 1850s.  It is now an entity of the Sue Hing Benevolent Association (Zhaoqing Huiguan 肇庆会馆) and the Association contracts out to someone to keep the temple door open.   That vendor is a member of the Association and has been in charge of the temple for decades.  I am in a sense a secondary contractor to run the temple for the primary vendor.  But In reality I am a volunteer.  This is because my motive is to keep the temple open so that people who need it can come.  Although some people say that temples are just another kind of business, but this business is not for financial benefits only.  I feel my primary call is to bring peace to people so that they can get on with their life with confidence and acceptance.  I have to admit that this job also allows me to touch base with my root and my own cultural heritage, which is very gratifying.   I will share some temple stories to illustrate my points. 


 

Bok Kai Temple, Marysville, CA
New Book: Three Chinese Temples in California  最古老的三座华                                    02-28-2016
The Gods of Chinese North America  美洲早期华人庙宇神祇名录                      10-06-2015
Leisheng Gong or Temples of Many Gods   列圣宫                                                     10-26-2015
2016 Temple Confererence  庙宇-博物馆会议: 管理与傳承                                                       02-29-2016

SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN TEMPLE MAP 1905                                                                   08-10-2017

               



                  
            NEW BOOK (Feb 2016)

Three Chinese Temples in California: 
Weaverville, Oroville, Marysville

Authors: Chuimei Ho, Bennet Bronson
List Price: $24.99
8" x 10" (20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Full Color on 104 pages 
ISBN-13: 978-1519517135 
ISBN-10: 1519517130
LCCN: 2016901276
BISAC: History / United States / 19th Century
Published by CINARC, Seattle

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Beuk Aie Temple, 1880s
Memorial at the Snake River site 2012
San Jose History Park    
Chinese Temples of Singapore -
Decline and Resurgence of interest in our cultural heritage

Victor Yue 
 Founder, Chinese Temple & Taoist Heritage Studies, Singapore 


1.The decline of temple interest, probably other than Hong Kong and Taiwan, is being experienced in Chinese
communities all over the world.  Many older overseas Chinese communities have gone through and are still experiencing such phases.  

2.In South East Asia (Nanyang), many Chinese who were traditionally Buddhists and Taoists (including folk religion) have become Christians. After a generation or two, many have lost knowledge of their heritage. In Singapore, the removal of some old Chinese tombs has renewed interests in the Chinese culture.

3.At the same time, in places like Indonesia, there is a strong renewed interest after the “liberation” of the Chinese culture in recent years.  Temples there started making contacts with Chinese temples overseas. Chinese cultural activities too, such Lion and Dragon Dance, Wushu, Chinese music such as Nanyin. Facebook quickens the process of communications and Google Translate helps.

4.There is a renewed interest in the young on their heritage.

5.The young are literate and savvy in the world of internet communications. Email Forums, Web Sites, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Vimeo have helped them getting to know more about the ancient Chinese culture.

6.They are not shy in joining groups of strangers. More could speak and write English and Chinese. Many are doing translations for the benefit of their people. Others use Google Translate for a gist.

7.There are other people who are seeking the ancient Chinese philosophy. They are very knowledgeable and articulate. There are great English translations.

8.Email, web-based forums and facebook groups offer an 
international gathering to share knowledge and understanding 
of practices in different localities around the world. 

9.Our old temples are our tangible heritage. 
The practices within our temples are our intangible 
heritage. It is our culture heritage that we must 
try to preserve. Chinese temples are similar in 
different places, but they are repositories of 
different histories.

Yue Hai Qing Miao 粤海清庙 –
A Teochew 朝州Temple, Singapore

Ng Shing Gung
 1880s
Ng Shing Gung demolition, 1949
The Reconstructed
Ng Shing Gung

Who else were at the conference?  

Quite a few.  Most have a professional interest in Chinese cultures, religious art, and cultural heritage.  Here is the list of pre-conference registered attendees: 
 
California
Lucy Bowen,  Independent Scholar, Menlo Park.
Pamela Bulahan, Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society, Isleton.
Pat Camarena, Yuba County Historic Resource Commission, Marysville.
- Teresa Chan, Independent Attendee, Stockton.  
- Teresa Chin, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.  
Yvonne Ching, Chinese Historical & Cultural Project, San Jose.
Suellen Cheng, Scholar, Los Angeles. 
Linda Sun Crowder, California State Univeresity at Fullerton, Brea.
Carol Donaldson, Yuba County Historic Resource Commission, Marysville.
Sharon Fong, Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society, Isleton.
Debbie Gong-Guy, Chinese Historical & Cultural Project, San Jose.
Carol Green, Isleton Historical Society, Isleton.
Chuck Hasz, Isleto Brannan-Andrus Historical Society, Isleton. 
Lynne Hasz, Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society, Isleton. 
Connie HigdonGannon, Greenspace-The Cambria Land Trust, Cambria.
Munson Kwok, Scholar, Los Angeles. 
Lily Leung, Tin How Temple, San Francisco.
Eileen Leung, Locke Boarding House Museum, Davis.  
Sandy Lim, Marysville Chinese Committee/Bok Kai Temple.
Gerry Low-Sabado, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Salinas Lodge.
Georgia Lord Watanabe, Independent Attendee, Barstow.
- Irving Mallard, Independent Attendee, Smartsville.  
- Lori Martin, California State Parks - Weaverville Joss House, Shasta.  
Sylvia Sun Minnick, Historian-Scholar, Stockton.
Wai Moy, Independent Attendee, Pleasanton. 
Sally Ooms, Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society, Isleton. 
Nancy Ostrom, Chico Museum, Chico.
Anne Peterson, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Santa Barbara.
- Randy Sabado, Independent Attendee, Salinas.  
Mae Schoenig, Diablo Valley Chinese Cultural Association, Martinez.
- Susan Sing, Independent Attendee, Los Angeles.  
Kathy Smith, Yuba County Historic Resource Commission, Marysville. 
Elizabeth Steward, Friends of the Bok Kai Temple and Historic Chinatown, Chico.
Pam Sweet, Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society, Isleton. 
Jan Winbigter, Independent Attendee, Sacramento. 
Brenda J. Hee Wong, Chnese Historical & Cultural Project, San Jose. 
- Anthony Wu, Independent Attendee, Stockton.  
. Lisha Yang, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.  

Idaho
Garry Bush, Nez Perce County Historical Society, Lewiston.
Debi Fitzgerald, Lewis Clark State College, Lewiston.

Nevada
Michelle Lord, Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas.

Oregon 
Christina Sweet, Kam Wah Chung Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, John Day. 

Washington
Frederick Yee, Independent Attendee, Bellevue.


CANADA
Chris Adams, Discover the Past, Victoria, B.C. Canada
Elisa Bondy, Independent Attendee, Scarborough, Ontario.
Kam Ho, Independent Attendee, Scarborough, Ontairo.
Puiying Ho, Independent Attendee, Scarborough, Ontario. 
Barbara Spencer, Independent Attendee, Edmonton.


     SINGAPORE
Doris Liu Chee Kwan, Independent Attendee.  
Nicole Yue Hui Chun, Independent Attendee.



Acknowlegements: helpful individuals and Institutions  
The people in Yuba County and Marysville City offices have been more than helpful.  We organizers are grateful for their much needed assistence:  Yuba County's Library Commission, Cemetery Commission, Historic Resource Commisison, and the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce-Visitors Services.

These individuals have put in extra effort toward making the logistics work:  Elisa Bondy, Ben Bronson, Pat Camaren, Carol Donaldson, Sandy Lim, Anita Luk, Arain Ting Mai, Eugene Moy, Sue Cejner-Moyrs, Kathy Smith.  We also thank those conference attendees who have helped out with transportation.  

Conference venue:  Yuba County Library, Second Street, Marysville
This Land Is Our Land: Conference 2017
Chinese Pluralities Through the Americas
An International Conference of the Chinese Historical Society of America
Conference Dates: October 6–8, 2017

Location: Hilton San Francisco
750 Kearny Street (Financial District)
San Francisco, CA 94108

Day 3 Sunday, October 8, 2017
4-5:50 pm Concurrent Sessions 6.  Room Columbus III


Moderator: Chuimei Ho, Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee (CINARC)

Chuimei Ho, CINARC  
The Tachiu Ceremony in San Francisco and Sacramento – A Public Event that was More
Important than Chinese New Year”

R. Gregory Nokes, Independent Researcher.
Massacre for Gold – Religious Responses from Communities in Lewiston and Beyond

Davi Y. Lei, The Chinese Performing Arts Foundation.  
Performing for the Gods: Opera in Traditional Chinese Religion

Ben Bronson, CINARC.  
The Sudden Disappearance of Folk Daoism in Chinese America

What panelists will talk about ... 

The Social Role of Traditional Chinese Religion in Nineteenth Century America
a panel discussion featured in 

David Y. Lei

Performing for the Gods: Opera 
in Traditional Chinese Religion

Cantonese opera was developed from a long line of folk religions - from Shaman (Wu - 巫 ) rituals and Nuo masks and rituals (儺).   In traditional China, temple fairs always held opera performances, with the stage facing the temple for deities to enjoy.  But the programs, such as “The Eight Immortal Birthday Greetings” and lion dancing were also intended to bring auspiciousness to the community.  Cantonese opera was also an important educational channel from where the public learn history, culture, ethics, morals, and religion, just like what movies and TV do these days.  But more importantly, traditional Chinese theatres, whether they were temporary or permanent, were social places for the community.  They were communal affairs where organizers, performers, audience and even vendors each had their role in making it happen.  Noisy and chaotic both on and off the stage, everyone seemed to know what was going on.  

Since the coming of the 123 members of the Hong Fook Tong in 1852, Cantonese opera has thrived in San Francisco, outlasting all the other ethnic theaters that used to be prevalent during gold rush days.  Cantonese opera is unique from other Chinese regional operas in that the actors were highly trained in commedia dell'arte and can improvise a different daily program, sometimes acting out the current news.  This drew the audience and community together on a daily basis, becoming the talk around the water cooler.  

The Social Role of Traditional Chinese Religion in Nineteenth Century America

Like most new immigrants, 19th century Chinese brought their religion -- folk Daoism -- with them to America.  The activities of this traditional faith were seen by many white Americans as weird, its temples and shrines as intrusions, and its music hurtful to the ears, pretending to be horrified that alien gods should find a foothold “in this Christian land of ours.”  Yet the immigrants did not accept these insults in silence.  They made efforts to build dialogue with enemies as well as sympathizers. Some Americans were interested and tolerant, though never converts.  And Chinese showed pride in their rituals, parading rather than hiding them.  Often the rituals and the temples themselves won a measure of respect.   

Participants in the panel will examine three kinds of situation where traditional religion was used to address major social problems.  The panel will explore the all-important tachiu ceremonies as practiced in San Francisco and Sacramento before the turn of the 20th century; the ways in which traditional religion helped to heal a hate crime in which more than 34 Chinese miners were killed in 1887; and the role of Chinese opera in religion as well as entertainment, serving to please the gods and to tamp down tensions that might otherwise destroy communities.  The last paper in the panel will discuss the causes and social consequences of the sudden, drastic decline of traditional Chinese religion that occurred in the first decade of the twentieth century.    

R. Gregory Nokes

Massacre for Gold – Religious Responses from Communities in Lewiston and Beyond

The little–known massacre of as many as three-dozen Chinese gold miners on the Oregon-Idaho border in 1887 was the worst of the many crimes committed by whites against Chinese immigrants in the American West.

Only in recent years, has the severity of the crime been publicly recognized with a memorial to the slain miners, erected by an inter-racial committee. But there’s credible reason to believe the Chinese community in Lewiston, Idaho, took steps at the time to honor the victims, although their efforts weren’t known or appreciated in the white community.

The crime occurred in the depths of remote Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, when a gang of white horse thieves attacked a group of unarmed Chinese who were mining gold along the Snake River. The gang could easily have robbed the Chinese of their gold and left them helpless to do anything about it. But the gang’s actions went far beyond a robbery to a savage act of racial hatred. The killers proceeded to slaughter every Chinese in the camp, throwing the bodies into the north-flowing river where some of them surfaced at Lewiston, sixty-five miles to the north.

There was an investigation of sorts, and a trial. But the accused were found innocent, while the ringleaders escaped and were never caught. The crime was covered up for more than a century.

In 2012, after the crime had been rediscovered, a committee of Chinese Americans, Caucasians and Native Americans, raised money for a memorial overlooking the river at the massacre site. It was dedicated in 2012 by Master E-Man, a Taoist priest from Los Angeles, who told the large gathering he had first cleansed the site of its evil spirits.

However, there is also is reason to believe that the Chinese community in Lewiston, staggered by the murder of so many of their members, renovated and furnished the Lewiston temple to honor the slain miners.


More about the panelists 


R. Gregory Nokes 

An author and lecturer on Northwest history, Greg had a 40-year career as a journalist before embarking on a second career as an author and lecturer on Northwest history. He has written two books, both published by Oregon State University Press. His book, Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon, tells of the long-forgotten massacre of nearly three-dozen Chinese gold miners in remote Hells Canyon on the Oregon-Idaho border. Now in its fourth printing, the book recently inspired an Oregon Public Broadcasting television special on the massacre. Greg’s second book is Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory.

Greg is a native of Oregon, attended Willamette University in Salem and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. His positions as a journalist included Chief State Department Correspondent for The Associated Press during the Reagan administration. He was also a foreign correspondent based in Puerto Rico and Argentina. During his career, he traveled to more than fifty countries, including several trips to China. Greg and his wife, Candise, live in West Linn, Oregon.


David Y. Lei  

Born in Taiwan and migrated to the United States as a child, David started his interest in performing arts when in the high school, co-founded in 1966 the Chung Ngai Dance Troupe.  Since 1971 he has always played a role in the annual San Francisco New Year Parade and Festival, sometimes as the event director and recently the cultural advisor.  In 1994, as a co-founder of the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation, he has supported several research projects, exhibitions and publications.  These include Chinese Lion Dance Explained (William C. Hu – 1995), an exhibition Painted Men - Chinese Opera Backstage held in 2006 at Performance Arts Library Museum along with its accompanying volume by William C. Hu and Sally Yu Leung, the exhibition Duk Duk Chang - Clamor and Glamour of Chinese Opera was held at the Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco in 2007, and the book Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (Nancy Yunhwa Rao – 2016).   In 1995 he co-founded the Academy of Chinese Performing Arts in Fremont and Cupertino.  In 2009 he tried his hands on documentary, becoming an associate producer and a funder for a 57-minute show, "A Moment in Time," with Academy Award director Ruby Yang.

Currently David is on the board of the Bancroft Library Advisory Board and the Center for Asian American Media in San Francisco.  He has also served the board of the Asian Art Museum for more than a decade and is still chairing their Marketing Committee there.  

David graduated from UC Berkeley in 1972 with Business administration degree and retired from the business world a few years ago.   He enjoys crossing over the business and cultural circles. 


Chuimei Ho and Ben Bronson

Co-founders of CINARC, based in the Seattle area.  

Ben Bronson

The Sudden Disappearance of Folk Daoism in Chinese America

Perhaps the greatest puzzle in the early history of Chinese temples on this continent is why they disappeared.  In the nineteenth century, they dominated most North American Chinatowns, physically as well as in the minds and lives of many Chinese immigrants.  But after the second decade of the twentieth century almost all were gone.  The question is, why?  And why in North America, at a period when traditional Chinese religion was thriving in much of Asia?   This paper explores several possible explanations: Christian opposition, racist hostility, Chinese progressive thought, the benefits of appearing to be progressive, and—perhaps most important—the relative absence of women who, in Chinese as in many other cultures, have been the mainstays of popular religion.
Chuimei Ho

The Tachiu Ceremony in San Francisco and Sacramento – 
A Public Event that was More Important than Chinese New Year

Tachiu ceremonies 打醮 were an extraordinary type of religious activity among American Chinese before 1920;  no fewer than seven cities and towns held such ceremonies regularly.  The first few tachiu might have been triggered by the need to pacify the spirits of victims of disasters:  in 1865 Sacramento Chinese held its first tachiu after the steamboat Yosemite exploded at Rio Vista, killing 30 Chinese along with many others.   Six years later in Los Angeles, when 17 Chinese were killed in a riot, that community too held a major tachiu.  

But not every early tachiu was connected with tragedies.  San Francisco’s Chinatown saw its first tachiu in 1868; it seems to have been more of a thanksgiving than a memorial.  San Francisco is also unusual in having sometimes had more than one tachiu in a year, celebrated by multiple competing organizations.   These included several of the Six Companies as well as the Chee Kung Tong, the Four Brothers Association, and several others.   

My presentation will discuss patterns of tachiu performances and their economics in connection with changes in the communities involved.      

January 23, 1896, Dragon Dance in San Francisco's Chinatown  
The building on the left displayed two large figures at the entrance, a sign of a tachiu ceremony in progress.  Identified as Spofford Alley, San Francisco. Because of the  Nationalist flags and the style of the  gaments, the photograph must have been taken after 1912.  

Bancroft Library, 
UC Berkeley. 1905.17500.v29
The following map, divided into north and south parts, represents San Francisco's Chinatown in 1905, on the eve of the great earthquake and fire that destroyed it.  The rebuilt Chinatown of the present day, visited by tens of millions of tourists and the heart of Chinese America in the eyes of earlier Chinese immigrant families, has the same footprint as the 1905 version but is otherwise very different.  For one thing, it is filled with "Chinese" architecture: tiled roofs with upturned ends, coffered ceilings over recessed balconies, wall decor featuring dragons, and lions, and so forth.  None of these existed in 1905 but by 1910 they were everywhere, even in other Chinatowns.  Another big change: the new Chinese quarter of the city was cleaner, better organized, and perhaps less atmospheric than the 19th century Chinatown.

The editors created this map in the course of research into early Chinese temples and the institutions--public-spirited committees, region-of-origin associations or huiguan, and secret societies--that hosted them.  Almost all of the organizations shown here maintained public temples or semi-private shrines.  One of the best-known was and is the Guandi Temple of the Kong Chow Huiguan, now on Stockton Street but until the 1960s at Pine and Kearney, outside the map.  Another of the best-known was that of the Ning Yung Huiguan, formerly on Broadway and Montgomery but moved to Waverly Place in about 1900.  Perhaps the most splendid of all Chinese American temples, it was leveled by the Earthquake and never rebuilt as a temple, although the Association had no trouble financing a fine new headquarters in approximately the same place.  It seems to  have lost interest in this aspect of traditional religion.

The map is based on the well-known 1885 Board of Supervisors' map but updated with information from contemporary newspapers, the 1905 Sanborn Fire  Maps, the 1905 Chinese Telephone Directory for San Francisco, and the 1903 Directory of Chinese Businesses.  Because the Supervisors' map was drawn up with strongly anti-Chinese objectives, it was colored to emphasize social evils like opium use, gambling, and prostitution, much of that data coming from unknown but questionable sources.  We have recolored the map to eliminate those prejudiced emphases, modified the boundaries of Chinese and White settlement, updated street names to those used in 1905, and added new locations for temples ("joss houses") and other institutions.  The map is a work in progress,  The editors expect to update it several times in the coming year as our research into Chinese American temples progresses.
Key:
Cream = Streets and non-Chinese residence/use
Tan      = Chinese residence/use
Red     = Temples
Blue     = Associations/Huiguan
Pink     = Secret  Societies
Chinatown, San Francisco, 1905, Northern Part
This is a first draft, with errors and omissions.  Comments are welcome.  

Click here to see the full-size version