The Mendocino Beacon
Celebrate the Lunar New Year with the Temple of Kwan Tai
Sunday, January 22, we celebrated the beginning of the Lunar New Year, which has its roots in Chinese culture but is celebrated throughout east and southeast Asia. In Chinese culture, this year’s celebration transitions us from the authoritative and bold year of the Tiger into the softer, more empathetic year of the Rabbit.
In the Chinese Zodiac, the rabbit symbolizes cleverness and cautiousness, wittiness, and positivity. The observation of the Lunar New Year begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, give or take fifteen days later. It is a time of reuniting with family, friends, and community, eating symbolic foods, and making wishes for the year to come.
The Lunar New Year has been celebrated continuously on the Mendocino Coast since the first Chinese settlers arrived in the early 1850s. By the 1860s, there were between 500-700 Chinese in Mendocino, so one can imagine the celebrations were grand. Today, the only structural evidence of this thriving coastal community is Temple Kwan Tai, arguably one of the most historically significant buildings within the historic district. The California State Architect dates the construction of the building to the early 1850s, which, “if accurate, establishes Temple of Kwan Tai as the oldest “original” Chinese Joss House in rural California.” The deed was recorded to Lee Sing John in 1871, and opening ceremonies were held on November 4, 1882 (a date significant for its proximity to the May 1882
of the Chinese Exclusion Act). Temple Kwan Tai has been held and preserved by the Hee family for generations, who worked to have it established as a California Historical Landmark (1979) and created a nonprofit “devoted to education concerning Chinese immigrant history and to the celebration of community and diversity” (1995).
For 28 years prior to the pandemic, Temple Kwan Tai and the Hee family invited the larger community into this celebration by organizing an annual Lunar New Year feast and fundraiser to support the Temple. There will be a children’s parade on February 16 at 11:00 in Mendocino. Various schools from around the county will be participating. On Saturday, February 18, in the year of the Rabbit, this community tradition returns for its 29th (or 162nd) year. This year’s dinner will be a fourcourse meal held at Flow Restaurant for $75/per person. This is the Temple’s primary fundraiser, and all proceeds from this will go towards hosting the Children’s Chinese New Year Parade, continuing to provide local libraries with resources on Asian American culture and history, and upkeep of the Temple’s structure and legacy.
To reserve your seat, please call or email Lorraine at 707-864-8271, email@example.com.