Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park is a state park of California, United States. The site contains the oldest Chinese temple (dedicated to Guan Di) in North America west of the Rocky Mountains, built by Chinese goldminers during California’s 1849 gold rush. It was designated a National Historical Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Weaverville Joss House.
The original building has been restored and partially rebuilt after fire damage incurred in 1956. A new replica structure now houses the main hall once again, along with an adjacent museum and visitor center. In addition to its historic buildings and curiosities, the park includes hiking trails through scenic countryside, picnic facilities, and modern overnight accommodations for visitors traveling from out-of-state.
The park is located at 120 Old Sacramento Road, Weaverville, California, about 30 miles (48km) east of Redding on Route 299. Access via I-5 is easy, with exits for U.S. Route 97 and State Routes 299 and 140. The entrance road winds past grazing cattle and farmland, coming to a T where it intersects with Highway 299. At this point there are still no signs pointing toward the joss house. Upon reaching the parking area, there is a small trail that leads up onto the hillside behind the farmhouse. From here, one can see the entire valley, including the distant forests of redwood and Douglas fir, blue sky, and rolling hills dotted with grazing cows and tumbling streams.
The path continues across grassy meadows and forested woodlands until reaching the base of the mountain, where it comes to a sudden end beside a busy highway. This is easily avoided if one takes a left turn at the fork, following the sign for the “Joss House Trail.” After climbing steeply for approximately 500 feet (150m), the path levels off and passes through an open field before descending slightly to reach the ruins of the old joss house. There are several large trees nearby, which provide some privacy screening, although not much because of the many lights carried by tourists. The view from the front gate is very similar to that described above, except that the foreground is more rocky than level.
The main portion of the grounds consists of moderately sized stones laid in random fashion, but they are all carefully placed. Some larger rocks are also present, perhaps originally part of the foundation of the former building. Most of the walls have fallen or were never constructed, leaving only their traces among the boulders and tree trunks lying scattered around the site. Only two portions of the original building remain standing; these form the basis of what will be referred to as the Inner Sanctum, the main room of the reconstructed temple.
One enters this space through a doorway formed by two huge stone slabs, each weighing roughly four tons. The interior of the sanctum is covered with hundreds of blackened mortar holesthe remains of the plaster that once filled the cracks between the stoneshas been replaced by white plaster. On both sides of the sanctuary sit seven-foot-tall (2m) statues of Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy, whose presence in the temple inspires prayers for peace and good fortune. These are the largest religious sculptures in North America made of carved walnut. Each statue weighs five tons and is supported by a concrete stand embedded into the ground.
The Outer Court is entered through another door, just opposite the one leading into the Inner Sanctum. This outdoor court is paved and has benches along the perimeter. Its central feature is a ceremonial well, known as the Po, which serves as the primary focus of worship. The surrounding gardens include plum and cherry trees, as well as a reflecting pool and a stele dedicated to the memory of those who worked to build the temple. The Inner Courtyard is reached through a side door of the Outer Court. Here stands a three-tiered marble arch bridge, carrying foot traffic over a creek. Beyond this courtyard are the residential quarters of the caretakers and other staff members.
The Upper Courtyard is accessed through a separate entrance, providing additional parking and views of the garden. During regular business hours, this area functions primarily as an information kiosk, staffed by a full time concierge/attendant who can answer most questions regarding the complex. Visitors needing private transportation must reserve such service in advance, since walk-ups are rarely accepted. Private vehicles may enter the property to the extent permitted by local regulations. No public transit is available.
The park is popular with tourists from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, and beyond. Groups tour the temple daily, often entering the Inner Sanctum together, then moving through the outer courts and out back to the parking lot to split up. Personal tours are given Monday through Saturday 10am to 3pm, Sunday 1pm to 4pm. Because of the number of people using the facility outside of scheduled times, reservations for the Inner Sanctum should be made in advance. As of February 2015, the cost of a personal guided tour of the inner sanctum is $28 per person in addition to admission fees.