December 04, 2004

The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds

In far northern California is the little rural town of Weaverville. In Weaverville is a beautiful little part of the California State Parks system called The Joss House (refresh that link for more pictures too).

Weaverville Joss House

The temple is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. On display are art objects, pictures, mining tools, and weapons used in the 1854 Tong War. This Taoist temple is still a place of worship and a fascinating look into the role played by Chinese immigrants in early California history. The temple was built in 1874 as a replacement for another that had burned.

My family visited the Joss House occasionally because the head ranger there was an old friend of my dad.

The temple and museum contain some striking pieces of Chinese history. Check out this page for some beautiful pictures of the temple and it's contents, especially the traditional Lion headdress (scroll to the the bottom).

Related sites and more information can be found here and here.

There's more in the extended entry about the 1854 Tong War and life for early Chinese immigrants.

The 1854 Tong War occured in Tuolumne County, California over a mining claim between the Yum Wo and Sam Yup Companies. The pitched battle, complete with gongs and drums, wrought-iron pikes and shields involved more than 500 Chinese and 2,000 spectators, and resulted in relatively few casualties.

And finally, for an idea of what Chinese immigrants had to deal with in early California, here's an excerpt from a timeline I googled up when looking for information about the Joss House.

  • California imposes Foreign Miner's Tax, mainly against the Chinese.
  • There are 25,000 Chinese in California.
  • 1854

  • California state law prohibits people of color from testifying against a white person in court.

  • People v. Hall rules that Chinese can not give testimony in court.
  • 1857

  • San Francisco opens a school for Chinese children (changed to an evening school two years later).
  • 1858

  • California passes a law to bar entry of Chinese and "Mongolians."
  • 1859

  • Chinese are barred from attending public schools in San Francisco.
  • 1860

  • California enacts a law to tax Chinese engaged in fishing.
  • 1862

  • Central Pacific railroad imports Chinese laborers.

  • California imposes a "police tax" of $2.50 a month on every Chinese.
  • 1864

  • Over 10,000 Chinese work for the Central Pacific.
  • 1868

  • The Burlingame Treaty between the United States and China is ratified for free immigration of citizens of both countries.
  • 1869

  • Transcontinental railroad is completed leaving many Chinese laborers out of job.
  • 1871

  • Chinese are massacred in October in Los Angeles.

  • The Queue Ordinance of San Francisco requires all prisoners in San Francisco jails to have their hair cut to no more than one inch long (the 'queue' refers to Chinese pigtails).

  • San Francisco passes an anti-Chinese Cubic Air Ordinance requiring at least 500 cubic feet air space per inhabitant.
  • 1872

  • California Civil Procedure Code drops law barring Chinese court testimony.
  • 1873

  • San Francisco passes Laundry Ordinance penalizing Chinese laundrymen for not using horses or horse-drawn delivery vehicles.
  • 1875

  • Page Law bars entry of Chinese, Japanese, and "Mongolian" prostitutes, felons, and contract laborers.
  • 1877

  • Anti-Chinese riots breaks out in Chico, California to protest the use of cheap Chinese labor.
  • 1878

  • California Constitutional Convention completes a new constitution that calls for restriction of citizenship to natives or foreigners of Mongolian blood and prohibiting corporations from employing Chinese laborers.
  • 1879

  • Congress passes Fifteen Passenger Bill on February 22 which limits ships crossing the Pacific to no more than 15 Chinese passengers. President Rutherford D. Hayes vetoes the bill, because it contradicts the terms of the Burlingame Treaty.

  • California adopts a new constitution on May 7 forbidding employment of Chinese labor.
  • Posted by Ted at December 4, 2004 07:20 AM
    Category: History
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