- Emily Pan
Historic Chinese Temple in Cambria
Updated: Jun 20, 2022
Cambria's Chinese history is widely unknown, but one historic Chinese Temple stands as a symbol of the many Chinese immigrants--fishermen, laborers and miners--who helped build Cambria's vibrant economy in the 19th century. Cambria is home to one of the oldest Chinese temples in Southern California--called the Association House--and was recently restored by Greenspace to allow for visitors and public access. Read on to learn about the history of the site.
When the Chinese arrived on the Pacific coast, they immediately found the surrounding ecosystem filled with marine species considered very valuable in China. The rocky shoreline near Cambria provided an ideal environment for seaweed and abolone, harvested at low tide, so many Chinese immigrants became acquainted with abalone and seaweed harvesting. For over one hundred years, they harvested seaweed at what became known as "China Cove" about two miles north of Cayucos. Since it was necessary for the gatherers to be close to the seaweed beds and have ample space to spread out the seaweed to dry, these men elected to stay in isolated cabins near the seaweed, as opposed to crowded Chinatowns.
Since they worked and lived in isolated locations, they desired interaction with others and social life, so they frequently traveled to Cambria's Chinese Center, where they could gather together, retreat from bad weather, and rest. On weekends and holidays, they celebrated their traditional customs, wrote letters home, cooked, gambled, and chatted in their native tongue. The buildings allowed for dining and sleeping, complete with cabins, laundries, and a "joss house". It served as a Buddhist Temple as well as the lodge of Chee Kung Tong, a fraternal society that served Chinese immigrants' needs during the 19th and early 20th century. However, by the 1920s, the local buildings were generally abandoned as the immigrants relocated near San Francisco, but their legacy remains. Feel free to visit the site at 2276 Center St, Cambria, CA 93428, or check out the recorded webinar below. To support their renovation efforts through a donation, or to learn more, check out their website.
Source: "Historic Chinese Temple in Cambria". Greenspace Cambria, n.d. https://