About 50 miles west of Redding on Highway 299 is the small, historic mining community of Weaverville. Founded in 1850, Weaverville is a historic California Gold Rush town. After the gold ran out logging and tourism were the economic mainstays of Weaverville for many years but the regional economy has been in steady decline for many years.
During the Gold Rush Weaverville was home to approximately 2,000 Chinese gold miners, and had its own Chinatown. Weaverville is the home of California’s oldest continuously used Chinese temple. The present temple was constructed in 1874 after fires destroyed two previous temples on the site. While the Joss House is now managed by the park system and is open to visitors all year round, it is still used today for Chinese celebrations.
Above the front door Chinese characters in luminous gold translate to read, “The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds.”
The front of the building, painted bright blue to replicate the color of the sky, a symbol of heaven to the Chinese, has white lines that resemble the tile work of similar temples in
Look carefully at the picture below and you will see a step in the entrance. Just beyond the very high step of the entrance doors stand two more wooden doors—“spirit screens”—to keep out evil spirits. According to traditional Chinese belief, such spirits are unable to travel over barriers or around corners
Inside, three ornately carved wooden spirit houses contain clay statues of male and female
deities. An altar table holds candles, incense sticks, oracle fortune sticks, wine cups, and pictures of immortals painted on glass. A small wooden table holding food offerings sits in front of the altar, and a stone urn under the table offers beverages, including sweet plum wine. Along the side walls, processional banners, drums, gongs and association flags used in the Chinese New Year parades are displayed.
One of the displays features three ancient physicians from 2,600 years ago. The one on the left is an herbalist who recommended that you drink eight cups of herbal tea every day. The middle one is the acupuncturist who said you should get eight hours of sleep per day, the third is the surgeon who said you should take eight thousand steps per day. That sounds like a modern prescription for good health.
Attached to the temple is the caretakers quarters. The last caretaker lived there for almost sixty years until the mid-1950s. His daughter still lives in Weaverville and acts as a caretaker for the state.
The picture below shows a wooden plank hanging on the wall. It contains the name of every Chinese family that lived in the town.
In the caretaker’s quarters one of the walls was used to post news of interest to the Chinese community. Our guide helped point out some of the unique characters used in Chinese.
The Joss House is one of those neat little finds that we sometimes miss in our travels. It was just luck that we saw it on a map and did a little research on it. Who knows what other interesting places await discovery down the road!