We went to Weaverville for our first official book signing last weekend. Although part of our book takes place in Weaverville, we hadn’t actually been there. In order to gain a sense of the area during the mid-1800s for The Long Way, we rummaged through field guides, looked at topographical maps of the vicinity, and read books about the California Gold Rush and Chinese history.
As we ascended from Redding and drove along the base of the Trinity Alps and Highway 299, it became obvious. Our description of the area had been accurate. We were in dragon country.
Weaverville is an historic California Gold Rush town. Tucked into the base of the Trinity Alps Wilderness area, it was once home to approximately 2,000 Chinese gold miners and had its own Chinatown. The combined Gold Rush and Chinese history provides a perfect backdrop for our main characters.
We enjoyed our first book signing in Weaverville during the Chinese New Year celebration that ushered in the Year of the Horse.
The day started with a book signing at Tammie’s Books on Main Street.
The wet weather attempted to rain on our parade, but Tammie Huff explained that local residents are a hearty bunch who are used to the snow of winter and 100+ degree temperatures in summer. Folks were out in full force.
In the afternoon, we made our way to the Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park.
Every year the Weaverville Joss House Association holds a Chinese New Year celebration that draws hundreds of visitors. It was raining. Hard. The townspeople gathered outside the Joss House under umbrellas. Lions danced, gongs rang, drums beat, and fireworks exploded.
Between dances we met new friends and signed copies of The Long Way in the shelter of the interpretive museum. Our signing table was situated between a silk lion dance costume (early 1900s), opium pipe bowls, handmade weapons and equipment used by Chinese miners.
We took turns visiting the Joss House which is a remarkable structure. The sign above the wooden temple door reads, “The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds.”
In 1853, the Chinese residents of Weaverville erected a small Taoist joss house that they named Won Lim Miao (Won Lim Temple). The first temple building, with most of its furnishings, was consumed by fire in 1861. Local Chinese residents built a new temple, but in 1873 another fire swept through Weaverville completely destroying the second temple. In 1874 the residents began construction of the present building.
The temple’s historical significance lies in the fact that very few such structures still survive.
The celebration of Weaverville’s Chinese history continued into the evening at the Civil Defense building with the Weaverville Rotary Club Dim Sum Dinner & Auction. The gala benefits the Trinity High School Scholarship Foundation. The venue was decorated with an ornate entryway. Silk lanterns and thousands of red hanging lights greeted us inside. Everyone in town was there!
Cheerful Rotarians, hardworking waitstaff (Trinity High School teens), city council members, business owners, and the descendants of Moon Lim Lee, who was appointed as the temple’s trustee in 1938. In 1956 Mr. Lee saw his dream fulfilled when the Joss House was preserved and became a part of the California State Park System. This park is supported in part through The Weaverville Joss House Association.
The journey to Weaverville was a memorable one, indeed. Dragon country exists. Dragons are real.