The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds

The Weaverville Joss House, a Taoist temple, is the oldest continuously used Chinese temple in California. On display are art objects, pictures, mining tools, and weapons used in the 1854 Tong War. This Taoist temple is still a place of worship and a fascinating look into the role played by Chinese immigrants in early California history. The Joss House was built in 1874 as a replacement for another that had burned.

In an effort to preserve this important part of California’s Chinese tradition, the temple became a part of the California State Park System in 1956. Many of the historical objects have been restored and the structure itself stabilized. In addition to the temple equipment, park visitors will see Chinese art objects, pictures, mining tools, and wrought iron weapons used in the 1854 Tong War.

We visited the Joss House for the first time during the annual Moon Festival.  We first explored the exhibits inside the museum and then ventured out into the garden area for a few activities targeted for children.  Sweetie and Buddy most enjoyed the calligraphy … learning a new word and character … (Yuè or moon).  The other activity in which they took part was decorating paper lanterns .. both choosing to practice writing a few other characters they knew.  

We then walked across the bridge and up to the temple. Unfortunately, we had arrived too late to enjoy the lion dance that took place on the lawn in front of the temple.  
Just beyond the two large doors, the entrance to the temple proper, are two more high wooden doors, “spirit screens” to keep out evil spirits.  According to traditional Chinese belief such spirits can go only in straight lines, not around corners.
Inside, we marveled at the intricate details of the carvings, sculptures and of course the Chinese calligraphy.  We listened to a docent describe how the artifacts were transported from China, first by ship and lastly on foot 80+ miles from Red Bluff.   There are three ornately carved wooden canopies containing images of gods along the back wall opposite the spirit screens and in front of them is an altar holding candles, incense sticks, oracle fortune sticks and an oracle book, wine cups, and pictures of immortals painted on glass.  Before this altar is a small wooden table on which food offerings are placed and a stone urn used to offer alcoholic beverages, usually whiskey.    
The temple has been in continuous use as a place of worship since its construction.  The family of Moon Lee, whose grandfather contributed toward its building, are know to worship here, along with other Chinese from all over California.  Worshippers visit the temple alone, with their families, or with a small group of close friends to pray and to place some incense, candles and other offerings such as food and paper money before the images of the gods Health, Decision, or Mercy.  The docent explained that the Chinese would bring offerings to the spirits of their ancestors … generally the foods or beverages that their loved one had most enjoyed in life.  Worshippers are forbidden to pray for such things as wealth or revenge on an enemy, and the temple attendant would punish those who made such requests with fines.

Prior to our departure, we were also able to glimpse the caretaker’s quarters adjacent to the temple room as well as the conference room which sometimes served as a courtroom.  Each were much more demure and lacked the adornments so prevalent in the temple room.  
We enjoyed the excursion but were sad that the schedule of activities hadn’t been advertised better.  Sadly, 2011 may be the last year that the Joss House celebrates the annual Moon Festival.  The state has decided to close the doors of the museum and close it to the public.  
For more information about The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds and how you can help keep the doors open, visit the Weaverville Joss House Association.

Gum San :: Field Trip

We were delighted when the museum announced the return of the Gum San exhibit, exploring the impact of Chinese Americans on the history of United States … the only exhibit to tell a comprehensive story of the Chinese experience in the High Desert region.  As a student of Mandarin Chinese, MeiLi was very excited when I informed her that we would be going not only with her best  péng yǒu / 朋友 who also studies Mandarin (in fact, this is how they met), but with their  lǎo shī / 老师 as well.  

MeiLi and TianTian enjoyed looking for characters they recognized in the prints, most were traditional Chinese,  however.  It was so nice to have an opportunity for the girls to explore a little more about Chinese history with their lǎo shī.  In addition to the exhibit, they were also able to participate in a couple of Chinese crafts (knot tying and paper lanterns) as well as sample a few foods (barbeque pork, spring rolls, etc.).

DìDi / 弟弟 wasn’t very enthusiastic about the exhibit, however.  I thereby provided him with an impromptu scavenger hunt.  As he is passionate about trains, I encouraged him to find at least 3 different artifacts or photographs related to trains.  Success!  One of the things he found was an axe-head, with Central Pacific Railroad markings. “Look!” he said, “It’s a wedge! A simple machine!”  Curriculum integration at it’s best. 🙂

wǒ xiān zuò huǒchē / 我先坐火车 
(If only I could get him to stop making these crazy faces … such a comic!)
Still on exhibit, Live Butterflies! We had to visit this one again, of course, as it is a family favorite.  Very crowded but still enjoyable.  🙂
wǒ ài hú dié / 我爱蝴蝶 
(I can rarely catch her looking at the camera … always looking elsewhere!)

Curriculum & Learning Goals for 2010-11 (3rd and 1st grade)

I am still very pleased with the resources and curriculum I have purchased in the past.  Therefore, my learning goals for the year and the tools I will use to achieve them are very similar to last year.  I was much more successful in regards to accountability this past year but I am not yet where I want to be in this regard.  I feel I’m on a roll, however, and will continue to build on the successes we’ve experienced recently.

  • Reading: We’ve been successful with 30 min of independent reading but haven’t been doing it daily.  We didn’t reach our goal of reading independently for 60 minutes so we’ll reach for that again this year.  MeiLi has come a long way this past year.  She is reading more complex chapter books and doesn’t struggle as often.  She now will stay up late to read independently on occasion as well.  Buddy has grown tired of the Now I’m Reading series of easy readers, which to be honest, so have I.  He is now taking an interest in easy chapter books like Frog & Toad Are Friends.
  • Grammar & Writing: Integrated through science and history … copywork, letters to family and friends, creative writing activities, etc. We’ve been much more consistent here – partially due to integrating a daily reflection journal as part of our geology study, Explore Our World :: Africa.
  •  Shakespeare:  We studied The Twelfth Night this past year.  My intention was to take the kiddos to a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  As I was looking up ticket information, I discovered they give a family performance in September for discounted prices.  I figured this would be the best option for our first time.  I don’t yet know what we’ll study this coming year as it will depend on what performances will be selected at OSF.
  • Handwriting: I don’t think we practiced handwriting more than once or twice last year.  We have a long way to go as a result.  MeiLi needs work in cursive and Buddy has been getting sloppy so he needs some penmanship practice as well.
  • Spelling: This is another area that I rarely bothered with last year.  Both kiddos seem to pick up words as they use them so it hasn’t been of much concern.  Maybe 2010-11 will be different.
  • Math: MeiLi continues to excel in math. She has just begun Singapore 4A. Buddy is also doing well and recently begun Singapore 2A.  I don’t see a need to change this as we’ve been very consistent with our math studies.
  • Science: We were very successful this past year with science.  We covered Astronomy and Geology units rather throughly.  Our goals for science this year include Simple Machines, Electricity, Magnetism, Energy & Motion.
  • Nature Study: We’ve begun to undertake a weekly nature study with our Roots & Shoots club.  When possible I try to coordinate with Barb’s challenges at Handbook of Nature Study.  I am also looking into the possibilities of volunteering regularly at a local horse ranch as a part of Roots & Shoots.
  • History: As we haven’t yet finished volume 2, we are continuing with Story of the World: Medieval Times.  We very much enjoy the accompanying coloring pages and map work.  As we proceed, we will be transitioning MeiLi to written narrations rather than oral.
  • Physical Education: We’ll continue with our study of Taekwondo.  We’ve been talking of potentially joining swim team but it is an equally big commitment.  MeiLi will be testing for her black belt early next summer so that has been the focus right now.  We’ll also continue to incorporate other activities  throughout the year.
  • Mandarin Chinese: MeiLi will be continue meeting with a private tutor for 1 hour each week.  We’ve been a little more consistent in doing the homework assignments and accompanying workbook activities. Though I still feel we could do better.  I don’t hear her speak so I really have no concept of how much she really knows.  Tinsel says she is doing well, though.
  • Spanish:  Buddy has recently developed a strong desire to learn Spanish.  I think this is in part due to the fact that one of his friends in the neighborhood speaks Spanish.  I am delighted.  It provides us with some structure when MeiLi is working on her Mandarin lessons.
  • Art & Music History: We will continue to use Themes to Remember to aide in our quarterly composer studies.  We’ll also continue to study an artist each term as well.  This is another area that fell to the side in 2009-10.  I hope to improve here as well.  Artists I hope to cover this year are:  David Wiesner,  Georgia O’Keefe, and  . Composers I hope to study include: Edvard Grieg, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and ?
  • Music: Both kiddos will continue to take piano lessons with Janellybean.   Buddy has also begun to study guitar.  MeiLi wants to learn flute.  However, I honestly don’t know how we can manage to learn two instruments.  I’d rather they focus on just piano right now but I don’t want them to get discouraged either.  I need to give this area some more thought.

 

Joyful Signing

I have been trying for months to get Buddy interested in an activity like Taekwondo, Soccer or Sign Language. Each time I ask if he would like to do Taekwondo with his sister he says, “No, I can’t. I not big enough.” I continually reassure him and try to encourage him to try but he always says no … his facial expression nearly kills me … he looks withdrawn and rejected. I ask him what he would like to learn and his response is, “Nothing. I not want to do anything. I want to play with trucks and cars.” I don’t want him to feel like all the classes we do are for his sister and not him. I feel so bad.

When he was two, we did a Parent-Toddler Creative Movement (dance) class and he seemed to like it okay. There were three other boys in this class but now that they are older, the boys have moved on to other activities. If he were to continue with Creative Movement (ballet/tap doesn’t begin until age 5 at this school), he would be the only boy. I’ve been a little frustrated with the school anyway.

The choreography has been basically the same every year and Sweetie (having had taken classes there since she were 3) is bored with dance. She has even asked if she could do just the recital and not the weekly classes. We’ve lightly considered another school but haven’t looked into much as she seems content to stick with Taekwondo. DH is insistent that the kids do just one activity and he is a little frustrated that she does Taekwondo and Mandarin Chinese. Urgh! I’ve hijacked my own post – I was talking about Buddy. This is a material for a completely different topic.

Anyway, we have had these Signing Time DVDs since Sweetie was an infant. We used Sign Language a lot before the kids were speaking, though we haven’t used it much since. In August, another homeschool family offered to teach a Sign Language class for homeschoolers. I signed Sweetie up immediately. When I spoke with the instructor, I got permission to stay in the room with Buddy but my assumption was that he wouldn’t be interested. When the opportunity to take Mandarin arose, I briefly considered dropping Sign Language due to the schedule conflict but opted to give it a try knowing we’d have to leave early.

In anticipation of the class, we borrowed some of the newer Signing Time DVDs from the library. When we watch the videos, Sweetie is always eager to sign along with Alex and Lea. Buddy, on the other hand, sits attentively and simply watches. We’ve tried to encourage him to sign too, but he always replies, “I can’t.” I feel bad for him but I always respond, “Yes, you can, Buddy. When you want to try, I’ll be waiting.”

Imagine my delight when earlier this week, he started signing tree, forest, candy, more, and please as we were going about our errands. He has also only recently been able to work his fingers to sign ‘I love you’.

So, yesterday was the first day of Sign Language class. As we left the house, as usual the kids started asking, “Where are we going first? What next?” I went through the plan with them and they were both excited to go to Sign Language. When we arrived at the church where the class is taught, Buddy started asking, “Sign Language my class? I take Sign Language?”

A light bulb went off in my head – “Yes! This is your class, Buddy. You get to learn Sign Language. We will be there to learn with you so we can practice at home, but this is your class. Sweetie is learning Chinese. You get to learn Sign Language.” I think he liked to hear this but just before class started, I think he got shy again when he saw all the other kids. He said he wasn’t going to say anything. I explained that in Sign Language you don’t use your mouth to talk. You use your hands. He wouldn’t need to say anything. He said he didn’t wan to do that either. I told him that we would stay in class and that Sweetie and I would sign. When he was ready, he could join in.

He didn’t sign at all during class. However, when Sweetie was in Chinese shortly thereafter, I got him to practice the ASL alphabet with me a little. Then, in Taekwondo, he started pointing out the letter ‘A’ but rather than point with his index finger as he has done in the past, he was signing the letter and gesturing in that direction. I responded with enthusiasm and we did letter ‘B’ and ‘C’ as well.

I think he is warming up to it. I suppose I just need to be a little more patient. He is more reserved than she was and I need to remember that. He’ll find his niche soon.