Northern California is blessed with footprints of early Chinese settlers. These immigrants came to mine the gold mountains, build the railroads, the levees and labored invisibly in many trades that helped build the state. Fourteen heritage locations have banded together to showcase the historical presence of these early pioneers. Locke Foundation proudly hosts this webpage. Through the hyperlinks you can trace the ancestral historical whereabouts, their contributions, and the latest efforts of today’s stewards to preserve, educate and celebrate
- Historic Locke Town
The town of Locke, founded in 1915 is the only Chinese town built for the Chinese and by the Chinese. It is also the last remaining Chinese community in rural America and proclaimed as a National Historical Landmark.Situated in the California Delta, home of the State’s most fertile land surrounded by Sacramento River, and sloughs that was created by the Chinese laborers building the levees.
Visit Locke’s 4 museums showcasing the Chinese history, stroll the main street of charming shops, galleries and the hospitality establishments. The scenic levee roads will also take you through other legacy towns such as Isleton, Walnut Grove and Courtland showcasing the Chinese legacy.
- Bing Kong Tong project, Isleton
- The Isleton Bing Kong Tong (BKT) was established in 1903 as an affiliate of the San Francisco Bing Kong Tong Benevolent Society by Toy Tue, a local merchant and mayor of Chinatown. Its purpose was to provide a place for meeting, worship and resolution of problems in the Chinese community. The Bing Kong Tong Association built the current structure at 29 Main Street in 1926 following a fire which leveled all the structures on Main Street. From 1933-1942 the 2nd floor served as a meeting place for the BKT and the 1st floor was a Chinese Language School for the children. In the 1940s the BKT quit its operations in Isleton. In 1994 the San Francisco BKT deeded over the building (including its contents) to the Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society. Since then, there have been an attempts to renovate the structure. Now these efforts have culminated in stabilization of its structure and exterior (completed in 2014) and its utilities interior (2020). During 2021 the collection will be moved in and the building will open as the Isleton Museum.
- Address: 29 Main Street, Isleton, CA 95641
Mailing address is P.O. Box 933, Isleton CA 95641
- Chan House, Chinese Heritage Museum, Folsom
- The Folsom Historical Society is in the process of restoring an old house that was home to the Chan family in Folsom’s Historic District so that it can become the Folsom Chinese Heritage Museum. The project is dedicated to the experience of Chinese Americans and their impact on the history of Folsom and California. The project plan includes a traditional Chinese Garden entryway into a museum exhibit that is being designed to foster empathy as an intentional outcome of the visitor experience. For further information or to get involved, please contact Jeff Ferreira-Pro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-792-9438.
- The Chew Kee Store, Fiddletown
- In the Gold Rush town of Fiddletown, 45 miles southeast of Sacramento, the Chew Kee Store Museum and two other Chinese-related buildings from the late 1850s bear witness to a once vibrant Chinese community. The Chew Kee Store, a unique rammed earth structure, began as a medicinal herb shop that also served as a home, occupied by Chinese residents from 1855-1965. Artifacts, furniture and red banners in the store are original, providing the earliest authentic example of how Chinese immigrants lived and worked in emergent California. The Chew Kee Museum, operated by the Fiddletown Preservation Society, is open from April through October, Saturdays, noon-4:00 p.m. Check website first.
- Joss House, Auburn
- The Auburn Joss House was built in 1920 by Charlie Yue, replacing the original building which was destroyed by fire in the late 1800’s. Auburn had become a bustling town since the Gold Rush, and many Chinese immigrants flocked here and built a rich community. The Joss House was built to educate children, provide a place of worship, and serve as a hostel for travelers who needed a place to stay. Today, it is an historic monument preserving the past for the future, protecting the ancestors’ legacy, and educating visitors about how Chinese customs and cultures helped shape this country.
- Chinese American Museum of Northern California, Marysville
- The Chinese American Museum of Northern California (“Museum”) is located in Marysville, 40 miles north of Sacramento. The Museum building dates back to 1858 and is located in the heart of the old Chinatown at the corner of 1st and C streets. The two main exhibits of the Museum are: 1. Chinese American History in Ten Easy Steps and 2. The Lost Chinatowns of Old California, Ghost Towns and Survivors. The Museum has co-authored four Arcadia Publishing books of historical photographs of old Chinatowns. It is open on the first Saturday of the month from 12 noon to 4 pm.
- Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco
- The Chinese Historical Society of America collects, preserves, and illuminates the history of Chinese in America by serving as a center for research, scholarship and learning to inspire a greater appreciation for, and knowledge of, their collective experience through exhibitions, public programs, and any other means for reaching the widest audience. When founded in 1963, there were fewer than 250,000 people of Chinese descent living in the US and CHSA was a lone voice for the study and dissemination of the history of this segment of the US population.
- Today, as the number of Chinese in the US has risen to over 5 million, CHSA strives to be a responsible steward of the remarkable narrative of this rapidly growing and increasingly visible community. CHSA promotes the contributions and legacy of the Chinese in America through its exhibitions, publications, and educational and public programs in the Museum and Learning Center. We are housed in the landmark Julia Morgan-designed Chinatown YWCA building at 965 Clay Street, San Francisco. We offer tours of the Museum and the surrounding Chinatown community for a nominal charge. We have extended our reach with online content and online exhibits through our main portal chsa.org, sharing information and news through our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and sharing photographs through our Instagram. We have also opened our doors to collaborations with others who want to share their stories and experiences through film screenings, book readings, presentations, workshops, panel discussions and so much more.
Angel Island Immigration Station, San Francisco Bay
From 1910 to 1940, over 500,000 persons from 80 different countries were processed or detained at the former U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island. While sometimes referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West”, Angel Island’s immigration station was built to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and similar immigration policies that sought to keep Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants from entering the nation. There are over 200 poems carved into the detention barrack walls by Chinese detainees. These poems provide a glimpse into the trauma and despair that they endured under detention, but are also a testament to their determination, hope, and resiliency. The former U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997. The site now includes the Detention Barracks Museum and the Angel Island Immigration Museum.
Angel Island Detention Center
Oroville Chinese Temple
Chinese came to Oroville during the gold rush. In 1860s, the community soon established themselves and was able to build a complex of buildings to serve their needs. The main temple is Liet Sheng Kong which translates to Temple of many gods and goddesses. It also serves as main entrance for visitors. It exhibits a proud collection of Chinese congratulatory plaques from the multitude of Chinese American organizations that supported the temple.The Chan House served as a shrine to reverence their ancestors. One of them was a Soong Dynasty military general Sui Jing Bo who is the protector of the community from plagues and pandemics.
The community had devoted one building to be the Council room which served a variety of civil and cultural needs of the community such as governance, banking, and letter writing for the illiterates and taking care of the deceased. Moon room is on the second floor of Council room. It derived its name from the feature of its circular door. It houses 3 statues of buddhas, a rarity for the Chinese in America who were overwhelmingly Daoist. A new building, designed by historian Philip Choy was built and dedicated in 1968 to house the collections of the rich Chinese artifacts of the community. Under the management of City Oroville, the temple is maintained in excellent condition with the modern equipment to protects its collection.
- China Camp, San Rafael
- Located along the shores of San Pablo Bay, China Camp was the site of a thriving Chinese shrimp fishing camp that dates back to the 1860’s. At its heyday, there was a vibrant Chinese community of more than 500 people living at the Village. The main business was drying shrimp and exporting to China. The Village began to decline in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, followed by restrictive laws aiming at the Chinese shrimpers. They all left, except for the Quan family. Historic structures remain along the waterfront, including a museum with exhibits and interpretive displays about the history of the village and the shrimp fishing industry.
Chinese Historical & Cultural Project, San Jose
- Chinese Historical & Cultural Project of Santa Clara County, Inc. (1987), built the Chinese American Historical Museum, a replica 1888 Ng Shing Gung from the last San Jose Chinatown. CHCP hosts a Speakers Series with online webinars; a Student Docents & Cultural Ambassador Program (SDCAP; and the Lillian Gong-Guy Memorial Scholarship for graduating seniors. Collaboration between Stanford University, CHCP, and HSJ brings new information about the Chinese and Chinese Americans in Santa Clara Valley. Visit the museum virtually at www.chcp.org and more links to information about Chinese cultural celebrations and events. We look to the future to explain the past!
The Walk of Remembrance and Chinese Historical sites on the Monterey Peninsula
Since 2010 there has been an annual Walk of Remembrance event held in Pacific Grove, California along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. The purpose of this walk is to honor the four Chinese fishing villages that once existed between Point Lobos and McAbee Beach along the Monterey peninsula. The Walk was initiated by Gerry Low-Sabado who is a fifth-generation descendant of one of the first Chinese families to settle in the Monterey Peninsula. Her ancestors left China in a Chinese Junk and arrived in the 1850’s near what is now the Pt. Lobos State Park.
About 15 years ago, Gerry was inspired when she first noticed a picture of a Chinese woman exhibited at the Whaler’s Cabin at Pt. Lobos.She later learned from her mother that the woman in the picture was her great grandmother, Quock Mui.This discovery began her passion for researching and reclaiming the history of the five generations of her family and fellow villagers. She successfully lobbied Pacific Grove Natural Museum to feature a permanent exhibit of Chinese heritage plus a series of plaques at the relevant landmarks in the Peninsula.
The Whalers Cabin Museum in Point Lobos was actually built by the first Chinese to land in the area including Gerry’s ancestors. Inside the cabin is a picture of Gerry’s great grandmother Quock Mui, the first documented Chinese woman born in the Monterey Peninsula. The cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There is an interpretive plaque on a boulder located along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail marking the location of the Point Alones Chinese fishing village, just southeast of Hopkins Marine Station. Unlike other Chinese communities, Pt. Alones was occupied not by just single men but families.
After the Pt Alones village was torched, the villagers filed lawsuit and accepted a resettlement to McAbee Beach which is further southeast along the Cannery Row. An interpretive plaque was put up on the sidewalk and a Chinese fisherman was painted on a wall down the beach.
Lastly, there is an interpretive plaque located at 744 Wave Street, Monterey, the building where Quock Mui and her descending three generations lived.
Gerry Low- Sabado passed away in 2021 survived by her beloved husband Randy Sabado. Through Randy’s continuous efforts, there are more plaques and murals being processed in the pipeline of a few municipalities. Here we pay tribute to Gerry for her relentless efforts in resurrecting the Chinese history in the Monterey Peninsula.
Kwan Tai Temple, Mendocino
Life was without hope in Lee Ook Bin, a village in Zhongshan County in Guangdong, China in 1852. A group of villagers, including John Sing Lee decided to head for a better life in Gum San or California. They decided to travel by Chinese junk, a type of sailing vessel with the goal being Monterey. Five boats left, but only one arrived at the destination. John Sing Lee’s boat landed at Casper Beach, on the Mendocino coast. With their luck, they arrived when the Redwood logging industry was getting started. Work in the budding industry provided employment for the new arrivals and they sent for more countrymen. In 1854, the Temple of Kwan Tai was built to thank the god for their safe journey. The temple is one of the oldest buildings in the historic village of Mendocino and is now a preserved treasure that is open to the public.WebsiteChina Alley, Hanford
The city of Hanford was established in 1877 when the Southern Pacific railroad constructed a new extension line through the San Joaquin Valley. After completion, many Chinese railroad laborers remained in the area to do farm work. They purchased land and began building houses and shops in an area that became Chinatown. The alley featured eleven historic buildings including restaurants, boarding houses, grocery stores, laundries, herb shop with reputable herbal doctors, gambling halls, a Chinese school and a Taoist temple
The Taoist Temple was built in the late 1870s, serving as a community meeting hall, temple, and hostel. In 1973 the China Alley Preservation Society was formed to restore the long inactive community center and the Taoist Temple Museum for cultural heritage. The Museum opened in 1982. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Unfortunately the museum suffered from an arson attack on a night of May, 2021. Restoration efforts are presently underway.
- Joss House, State Park, Weaverville
- In the Small, historic mining community of Weaverville, the Weaverville Joss House is a vivid reminder of the Chinese Contribution to this part of California. Above the front door Chinese character in luminous gold translate to read,” The temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds.” Located 50 miles west of Redding on Highway 299, the Weaverville Joss House is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California.
- The Joss House is under the management of California State Parks
630 Main Street, Weaverville, CA 96093
Tel (530) 623 5284