The Joss House is the main feature of the Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park, located at the edge of the Trinity National Forest of northern California. Built in 1874 to replace two temples destroyed by fire, the Weaverville Joss House is the oldest continuously used Chinese Taoist temple in the state. It houses temple artifacts dating from the 1854 Tong War; the interior walls are festooned with fabric, wood, and paper bearing Chinese inscriptions chronicling dates, fortunes, prayers, and the names of Taoist deities and donors. The exterior features 17 panels depicting figures and inscriptions from myth and history.
California State Parks initially retained ARG Conservation Services to assess the condition and evaluate potential treatments of the exterior inscribed entrance panels. In the spring of 2005, ARG Conservation Services removed the panels and transferred them to San Francisco for treatment by staff conservators. Subsequently, the firm was retained to document, translate, and preserve the unique written record on the deteriorating paper inside the temple.
Prior to intervention, these inscriptions had never been comprehensively documented, translated, or made available to the general public. ARG Conservation Services conservators performed the delicate work of preserving fragile layers of inscribed paper adhered to the interior walls in situ, and cleaned and re-attached wooden banners to improve safety. High resolution digital photographs were taken of inscriptions in the interior rooms; a team of translators used these images to translate the Toisan (a dialect of southeast China) into standardized Mandarin pinyin and English.
The conservation and systematic documentation of the Joss House’s written record by ARG Conservation Services enriched understanding of the Chinese immigrant experience and contributions in the region, shedding light on the array of temple deities and practices, the active participation of diverse constituencies in the Chinese community, and the central importance of the Temple to the gold rush community.
ARG Conservation Services received a California PreservationFoundation 2011 Preservation Design Award for its work on the Weaverville Joss House.