Story and Photos by Elmer Martinez
MARYSVILLE, CA (MPG) – Recently, the Autumn Moon Festival showcased a part of Marysville’s history while raising funds to benefit the renovation of the Chinese School building at 226 First Street, in historic downtown Marysville. The event was organized by the Friends of the Bok Kai Temple.
The school was in operation from the 1920s to the ‘70s and hosted 20 to 25 at a time. The building will eventually be used as a meeting space for the Chinese American community, and it will once again serve as a school, with volunteers teaching the Mandarin and Cantonese languages. Each patron of the festival was treated to a tour of the entire Bok Kai temple and a catered meal at the Hop Sing building, provided by local Chinese restaurants. There was also a raffle for gift baskets, books, and other prizes, all benefitting the Chinese School building.
George Chan, a member of Friends of Bok Kai, led the tour of the Bok Kai Temple. There are no regular tours of the temple. “We have about two tours of the temple every year, so this is a very special experience,” said Chan. Tour participants were able to see the elaborate shrine created in 1854, five years after the first group of Chinese arrived in California to work the gold mines during the California Gold Rush. The temple served the immigrant population and was the center point of Marysville’s once bustling Chinatown. Now, the temple is the center point of Marysville’s annual Bok Kai Parade. The event has been reproduced for more than 130 years and is the oldest continuing parade in California.
Ric Lim, president of the Chinese Community, was on-site answering questions and allowed a few people in the entryway of the old building. Amidst several construction roadblocks brought on by decay, Lim is optimistic about the building renovation. “The face of the building has been restored, as there were bricks falling off the building,” Lim said. “Providing we earn enough money from this fundraiser, we hope to replace the roof of the school so we can start the interior renovation.”
Marysville’s Historic Chinese School deserves to be preserved as it represents a tangible link between the past and the present. The school will not only sit as a memory for the area’s Chinese community, but will serve an important purpose in educating the general public about the rich Chinese history in the area and in all of California.