Heritage Day roars back into China Camp

In August, our annual celebration returned to honor the park’s cultural heritage.

It’s been three years since the shores of San Pablo Bay have vibrated with the sound of the tanggu, a traditional Chinese drum. This year, that sonorous beating once again filled China Camp Village, with over 300 visitors enjoying the return of Heritage Day. Friends of China Camp rekindled the event followng the pandemic, and performers, exhibitors, and other participants helped honor the park’s Chinese legacy. 

As in years past, FOCC partnered with the Marin Chinese Cultural Association (MCCA) and other organizations to create an engaging free event, with traditional Chinese dancers and music, games, presentations, and food. One of the most popular events was MCCA’s youth lion dancers accompanied by crashing cymbals and the thunderous tanggu

The Grace Quan, a hand-built replica of a traditional Chinese shrimp-fishing junk.

Next, youth dragon dancers from the Redwood Empire Chinese Culture Association (RECA) moved in a wavelike dance out onto the Village pier, offering a grand welcome to the Grace Quan, a hand-built replica of a 19th-century Chinese shrimp-fishing junk. Once the boat docked, visitors were shown her innner workings by staff from the San Francisco Maritime Historic Park, where the Grace Quan is on display for much of the year. 

Additional performances followed, including RECA’s elegant synchronized dancers, an enchanting performance by Melody Yan on the guzheng (similar to a zither), accompanied by graceful dancers. Visitors also enjoyed Sam Lau’s playing of a traditional erhu, a two-stringed Chinese instrument played with a bow. 

Other activities included a group Tai Chi lesson, Mah Jong, and traditional children’s games. One of the most popular activities was the mini boat-building station offered by the National Park Service. The National Estuarine Research Reserve, WildCare, Marin History Museum, Marin Fire Foundation, and Immedium Publishing also offered engaging exhibits. Colorful landscape paintings by artists Michael Fieldman and Jennifer Siegal were also on display.

Milton and Georgette Quan

This year’s Heritage Day also included a very special guest speaker, Milton Quan, a Village resident in the 1940s and ’50s. Milton gave a tour of the village and offered fascinating stories about his childhood at China Camp, where he helped with the Quan family’s shrimping business, as well as working in the cafe and renting pleasure boats. 

No one went hungry at the event, with the Marin Chinese Cultural Association providing delicious traditional dishes, including chow mein, egg rolls, and dim sum. Big thanks to the organizations involved in this year’s event: Marin Chinese Cultural Association, Redwood Empire Chinese Cultural Association, National Estuarine Research Reserve, Marin Fire Foundation, Wildcare, and Marin History Museum. Thanks also to our amazing team of volunteers and park donors who help make Heritage Day and other events possible. And of course a special thanks to all the performers, exhibitors, and people who attended. Hope to see you next year.—by Sheila Coll, Program Director for Friends of China Camp

Photos: Sheila coll, Steve Ziman