August 17, 2013

Heritage Day -- China Camp celebrates a birthday

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Visualise the upper "thumb" of San Francisco Bay--that will be San Pablo Bay. On its shallow western shores is a now tiny Chinese shrimping village, known since the 1860's as Wa-Lo-Ha-Lio, or China Camp in western jargon.

photo [taken August 2009] by Donald Kinney

photo by Donald Kinney

photo courtesy Marin Historical Society / Friends of China Camp

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

So every year in mid-August "The Friends of China Camp" organize an event celebrating the seafaring culture and heritage of China Camp. "Lion-Dancers" shake to the beat of drums. Warbling singers warble.

Asian beauties present honors and awards. And more than enough songs on the Erhu, who's dulcet tones are often claimed to mimic the human voice.   And when all is almost said and done, someone is probably going to give a long recitation in both Mandarin and English.

One big party for the lone remaining resident of China Camp, Frank Quan.

click photo for full-size image
photo [taken July 2011] by Donald Kinney

Shrimping in San Pablo Bay has diminished over the years due to silt from old mining operations and salt intrusion. Fresh water flowing in from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers isn't of sufficient volume to flush the bay. Central Valley water diversion projects have been the "death stake" for shrimp fishing. Many thousands of pounds of Bay Shrimp were harvested in days gone by, but today Frank Quan can barely fill a sack.

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