Weaverville Joss House SHP invites public to virtually celebrate Year of the Ox

The inner sanctuary and alter inside the Temple Amongst the Forest Beneath the Clouds, the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California located at Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park. (California State Parks/Courtesy)

WEAVERVILLE — The show must go on. While the pandemic has shut down most in-person Chinese New Year celebrations, one California State Park is aiming to fill the gap with a virtual party full of Chinese American history and culture.

Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park will host a virtual Chinese New Year Celebration and Lion Dance through the California State Parks PORTS program as well as the CSP Facebook page.

The celebration kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday, the first day of the lunar new year as marked by China, Vietnam, Korea and several other nations in East Asia.

The Weaverville event will be broadcast from the Temple Amongst the Forest Beneath the Clouds, the oldest continuously operating Chinese Taoist temple in California. Also known as the Cloud Forest Temple, the building was constructed in 1874 after the original temple — built in the heyday of the Gold Rush in 1849 — was destroyed by a fire.

Hundreds of miners immigrated from China to the Weaverville area in the late 1840s and throughout the 1850s.

The interior of the temple looks like it did when it was built, with the additions of safety railing and electric lights. Located in the Gold Rush town of Weaverville in Trinity County, the temple is still used by Taoists today. Along with the altar and religious tools, the interior houses displays on Chinese American history in California, including mining tools, artwork, photographs and weapons used during the 1854 Tong War between four rival factions in the Weaverville area.

The word “joss” is believed to be a corruption of the Portuguese word “deus,” meaning “god.” A “joss house” was a temple where Chinese gods were worshiped.

Every year, to celebrate Chinese New Year, the temple hosts a lion dance, and this year is no exception.

The virtual celebration will be presented in three separate online programs, and while all are welcome, it’s formatted especially for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The virtual agenda:

  • 10 a.m. — Traditions in the Cloud Forest Temple

Jack Frost, California State Park historic monument guide, will welcome you into the temple as he introduces Chinese New Year traditions. He will share the special meanings behind incense, food offerings, money, and the revered ancestors.

  • 11 a.m. — Lion Dance & Lantern Craft

This portion of the program will begin with the colorful Lion Dance presented virtually by the dance troupe Eastern Ways. Lion Dances are among China’s oldest cultural performance arts. According to Chinese tradition, “the lion will preserve peace and tranquility in the community and prevail over all evil to bring joy and happiness in the New Year.”

Several guests who were born in China will share memories of their early New Year’s experiences.

Next, there will be a demonstration making traditional red lanterns, and talking about the Chinese zodiac. (We will be entering the Year of the Metal Ox.)

  • 1 p.m. — Temple Heartbeat & Firecrackers

Viewers will share a special sacred time in the Cloud Forest Temple and the unique temple heartbeat will sound on the gong and drum. The finale of the event will be lighting loud Chinese firecrackers to scare bad spirits away.

To view the Chinese New Year event, register as a participant at www.ports-ca.us to receive a link, or view Weaverville Joss House SHP Facebook page. The event will also be broadcast on California State Parks’ main Facebook page.

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