In this edition of Explore California, we look at the oldest Chinese temple in California. Once a bustling Gold Rush town, this piece of Chinese history, known as "The Temple Among the Trees Beneath the Clouds" lives on in Weaverville.
45 miles west of Redding lies the small community of Weaverville, with a population of around 3,500. Although now unassuming, Weaverville has a long history associated with the California Gold Rush when an influx of Chinese prospectors came to the village with the hopes of striking it rich.
Weaverville became a center of Chinese culture in the region as immigrants set up businesses to serve the prospectors. Many of the Chinese miners were Taoists, and they brought their philosophy and religion with them to the West. The first Joss House was built in 1853 so the Chinese could continue to practice.
The present-day Joss House, built in 1874, is the third built on the site, after the first two were destroyed by fires. Throughout the years, Joss House served as a place of worship, a place of rest for travelers, a social hall, and a cultural center. It was an important place of refuge for foreign miners who faced extra taxes and discrimination. In 1956, the building’s caretaker Moon Lee gifted Joss House to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The building remains beautifully decorated and features hand-carved artwork from China on display. There is also a small museum with artifacts from the California Gold Rush era. Joss House continues to be a working house of worship and cultural center. Each year, the house hosts a Chinese New Year Lion Dance which is open to the public to view.
Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park is open Thursday-Sunday from 10am-5pm and guided tours leave at the top of every hour (last tour at 4pm).