Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lorraine Hee-Chorley /The Temple of Kwan Tai

Last weekend my wife and I visited Mendocino. Mendocino is a quaint seaside village on the North coast of California which was much busier in the 19th century during the height of lumber operations there.
The following picture of Mendocino and other beautiful pictures of the town and bluffs can be found on this great blog -"My Back 40 feet"

I didn't realize that Chinese had settled in the area until Liz and I discovered this Chinese temple on one of the streets of the village.
There was plaque on the sidewalk : Temple Kwan Tai , California State Historic Landmark , 1854
The temple was not open when we discovered it so we came back the next day to visit and learn more about it's history.
Here is an inside view of the taoist temple.
Liz and I were very happy to meet Lorraine Hee-Chorley , who is a 4th generation descendant of one of the founders of the temple. Her family has been instrumental in preserving the temple and getting it designated as a California State Historic Landmark. Lorraine's father was of Chinese descent and her mother of German/Irish ancestry. According to Lorraine , Chinese settled in the Mendocino area in the 19th century and worked as laborers in the lumbar mills and railroads and as cooks and house servants and laundrymen. They also worked in farming, fished the coast and were involved in the shrimp industry. During it's hey day Mendocino had a large Chinese community and a Chinatown. Chinatown used to occupy the open space in front of the main street in the picture above . This is now part of the Mendocino Headlands State Park.
Here is Lorraine showing us the temple which was a sacred gathering place for the Chinese community .

Lorraine has written a great book that has wonderful pictures of the Chinese in Mendocino county and of historic Mendocino. We had a great time spending time with Lorraine and learning about the temple ,her family's history in the area and about the history of the Chinese community there . It was truly a highlight of our visit to Mendocino ! Thanks Lorraine !


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