Tucked beneath the banks of the Yuba River in the Sacramento Valley is one of California's three remaining Taoist temples, a remnant of the influx of Chinese immigrants during Gold Rush days. Erected in 1880, the now-crumbling plaster walls of the Bok Kai Temple are decorated with finely painted murals, the only ones of their kind in the country.
Luckily, the National Trust for Historic Preservation last year named the Marysville landmark one of America's 11 most endangered historic sites. The designation has brought seed money to renovate this active worship sanctuary from which the slightly acrid scent of incense still wafts over the river. Bok Eye, the Chinese water god, controls floods.
Although the Chinese community in Marysville currently numbers only in the dozens, the area was once home to California's third largest Chinese population. Bok Kai also houses 19th-century artifacts and antiques from China, including a gilt sedan chair and rod puppets.
For tours, contact George Rios at (530) 301-3834. Information:www.bokkaitemple.org.
Photography by Andrea Guerra
This article was first published in July 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.