The Chinese-American experience is a complex journey from a dying dynasty into a new land.
It is a series of cultural exchanges, a struggle to overcome persecution and more than 150 years worth of achievements.
The grand opening of the Chinese American Museum of Northern California in Marysville will transport guests into this history with never-before-seen photographs, authentic antique artifacts and in-depth historical accounts.
Brian Tom, a Chinese-American scholar born in Marysville and founder of the Asian-American studies program at the University of California, Davis, is bringing his work home with the opening of the museum during the weekend of the annual Bok Kai festival March 24 and 25.
“Part of the mission of this museum is to give people a more complete history of what the Chinese experience in America has been all about,” Tom said. “In order to understand it, we have to go back in time a little bit.”
Tom and his family spent the past two years preparing to open the museum, which now holds more than three decades worth of research and artifact collections. The museum space has been open during Bok Kai for the past couple years - but with only a fraction of its current contents.
One exhibit, entitled “Chinese American History in 10 Easy Steps,” begins in the late 1800s and ends in the 1940s. The history is illustrated and accompanied by written text that allows readers to go into as little or as much depth as they prefer.
“People can get a general idea of Chinese-American history just by looking down the pictures and the texts,” Tom said.
Another room is dedicated to local Chinese history. It contains a colorful display of Chinese living and past Bok Kai and Bomb Festivals dating back to the early 1900s.
Marysville's mayor is looking forward to the museum's display of local history.
“The Chinese community has a lengthy history here in Marysville. I know in recent years the Chinese community has been dwindling, but they are still maintaining a huge Chinese tradition,” Mayor Bill Harris said.
“They've been a working on the Chinese museum here for a long time and have put a lot of effort into it. I'm really looking forward to it opening and looking forward to the Bok Kai Festival.” he said.
A special museum exhibit slated for the grand opening is called “The Lost Chinatowns of Old California - Ghost Towns and Survivors.”
It boasts photographs of many of the 30 Chinatowns built during the Gold Rush era. Marysville's Chinatown is one of the few still standing.
“People think Marysville has been here so long. But people have to remember this heritage and make some effort to try to preserve it,” Tom said.
Other exhibits show some of the contributions the Chinese community have made to America, including to the fishing industry, railroads, restaurants and farming community.
Antique Chinese hats, a pack for a mule and an early 1850s pick from a Chinese miner in Folsom are a few of the displayed artifacts.
A replica of Tom's grandfather's Chinese general store has been built in the front of the museum. In the back, the Sanfow Bean Sprout Plant has been restored to its original condition.
Talks and panel discussions will be part of the grand opening.
Speakers will include University of California, Santa Cruz, professor Judy Young and Janothan H.X. of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Stanford Professor Gordon Chang, whose grandfather is from Marysville, also plans to give a presentation.
After the grand opening, the museum will be open the first Saturday of each month from noon to 4 p.m.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Breeana Laughlin can be reached at 749-4710. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.