A History of Chinese Americans in California:
Won Lim Temple
The exterior of the Won Lim Temple in Weaverville has two parallel gables and ornate cornices, decorated with carvings of fish and dragons. The facade is painted to resemble the blue tiles and stone of traditional Chinese temples. The wooden building consists of the temple area, an adjacent waiting room for worshippers, and two small rooms that were the priest's quarters. Entrance to the temple is across a large porch and through two large doors. Just beyond the threshold are two high wooden false doors or "spirit screens".
The temple is of the Taoist religion, and the two main gods worshipped there are Bok Aie (god of the north) and Kuan Kung, whose statues are on the central section of the main altar.
The temple is surrounded by trees, in an area of scattered residential dwellings. It is, however, close to the former Chinese section of Weaverville, where ruins of three Chinese stores still remain.
The Chinese first came to Trinity County in search of gold. By 1880, there were 1,951 Chinese Americans in Trinity County (mostly miners) and three known Taoist temples, two in Weaverville and one in Lewiston. Today, only the Won Lim Miu in Weaverville remains. It is still being used by the Moon Lee family and occasional worshippers who visit the town.
The Won Lim Miu, which was originally built about 1852 or 1853, burned down June 28, 1873, but was rebuilt and dedicated the following year. The new temple was constructed according to custom, except that in China the temples are built of stone and tile, whereas this temple was built of wood. The front of the temple is painted to resemble tile. Roof ornaments are much more elaborate than on any other Chinese temple in California, although the exterior is more traditional than the simple utilitarian structures of other extant Chinese temples in California.
The statues of 12 gods and two goddesses housed in the temple were made in Weaverville of local clay, painted in gold, dressed, and ornamented with horse-hair. The door guardian was also made of local clay. Other objects in the temple may have been imported from China.
Of significance is the mountainous location of this temple. Temples and statues had to be made of local materials because of the difficulties of transport. Being cut off from easy communication with other Chinese American communities, the Weaverville Chinese Americans chose to build a more traditional temple, motivated probably by homesickness as well as religious sentiment. The elaborateness of the temple also indicates an intention to establish a permanent or long-term community.
The Weaverville temple is now a State Historic Park and a State Historical Landmark.