Weaverville Joss House SHP
Narrated by Russ Christoff
From Shasta, it took about an hour and a half on Highway 299 to reach the old mining town of Weaverville.
In Trinity Alp country, this town contains the oldest continuously used Chinese Temple in California.
Built in 1875, Weaverville Joss House also known as the “Temple in the Forest Beneath the Clouds,” was placed under the protection of California State Parks in 1956, and is managed as an art collection.
Today, guided tours give visitors a glimpse of ancient Chinese traditions.
A visitor center on the grounds contains interpretative displays depicting the struggle the Chinese endured while attempting to acquire a share of California’s gold.
Before taking a tour, I asked our guide, Diane, about the Joss House Temple.
GUIDE DIANE: The Chinese were a disparate community from all over China.
They spoke different dialects, they were having civil war in China so their political opinions were different.
They needed some unifying place and in many of these old west towns, they would kind of rally around or gather around some form of house of worship.
That certainly was true here in Weaverville. This temple occupies pretty much the physical center of the Chinese portion of the town.
It was built in 1874, and they sent to China for many of the things that you are going to be seeing on the interior.
It is a Taoist temple. Taoism is a philosophy espoused by a man name Lao-Tse over 2,500 years ago and it’s based on maintaining the balance of many gods, goddesses and ancestors.
RUSS CHRISTOFF: And a lot of the original things that were brought from China are in the temple.
GUIDE DIANE: Yes, and it’s one of the things about it as an historic site that is really significant.
During the upheavals in China in the cultural revolution, many of the old rural styled temples there were dismantled or destroyed.
So the fact that we have a complete and intact temple from that time period here in Weaverville makes it quite a draw.
The people that come from China are very excited to see it here. We are lucky to have it as part of the State Parks’ system.
You will find three different alters when you get inside. In Taoism, they have thousands of gods to choose from.
Each community chooses the gods they think will help them.
Here in Weaverville, it was primarily a mining community in 1874, so they chose their gods accordingly.
Three alters, the alter of health and fortune, the alter of protection and the god that helps with the mining activity, and then there is also the alter of mercy and travel.
So health, protection, travel, mercy, those finding their fortunes, that’s what they were here for. Those were the types of things and the various gods they chose.
The Chinese contributed greatly to the development of California.