A Tradition Since the Gold Rush: Bok Kai Marysville Parade

By Ilene Eng

A century-old tradition held its annual parade at one of California’s oldest Taoist temples. People gathered in Marysville to celebrate the 139th annual Bok Kai Lunar New Year festival and parade on March 9.

“It’s a tradition to make it down here to see the history of the Chinese people that have been here for you know, a hundred and fifty years at least. So…. coming to the Bok Kai is just a beautiful thing,” said Drew Sallee, a retired schoolteacher.

He returns every year with his wife, Nancy.

The Bok Kai Temple was built in 1854 after the Chinese came to work on the mines during the Gold Rush. The temple is dedicated to the deity to keep Marysville civilians safe from flooding.

“One of the unique characteristics of the Bok Kai Temple is the surviving mural, depicting vivid scenes of Chinese culture,” according to the Bok Kai parade website. “Leslie H. Rainier, a painting conservator from the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, examined the painted frescos and found ‘the quality and execution of the scenes equal to the few Taoist paintings in American museum collections.’ Despite water damage, these frescos are the only ones in this condition to exist in the world, as most similar work in China was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.”

It still has many worshippers today coming from as far as Hong Kong.

“They do a lot of blessings with the food, and they’re worshiping the water God. That’s what Bok Kai is, the water God,” said Nancy Sallee, a retired schoolteacher.

Bok Kai’s birthday, or Bomb Day, is celebrated with a parade, opera singers, dances, and firecrackers.

“You run into people that you went to school with that come back every year. Many years … we’ve been coming here for over 60 years,” said Ms. Sallee.

Those who joined the parade represented the group they were supporting.

“This car is going to be raffled off on Cinco de Mayo, May 5. It will be at the Yuba County Fairgrounds. There’s a huge celebration going on there, and we’re going to give it away on that day,” said Don Schumacher, program director at Yuba Community College. “We’re just showcasing it, trying to get it out … so you could see the sign on it. For $25, you can win this car.”

“We want to share with people the beautiful [sic] of Dafa, and how we practice,” said Julie Nguyen, a parade participant. “And we want to share all the Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance, so people can learn about it and spread around the world.”

The finale was a common favorite of the parade.

“The dragon dance was really cool. That was my favorite actually, yeah, except I can’t really hear too much after it,” said Darian Eldredge, sales.

NTD News, Marysville, California