A colorful mural, just a block south of the old Mission San Buenaventura.
by Richard Senate
On February 10, is the Chinese New Year according to the lunar calendar. This year the animal, of the twelve sacred animals, used to define the year is the dragon, a symbol of great change and dramatic events.
Few today know that Ventura once had a vibrant Chinese community called “Chinatown” by the locals and “Sui Mong Gong” by the Chinese. It was named after a village in Canton province. Here they celebrated the New Year in style with fireworks and simple gifts. All debts were paid, the Chinese feasted and if they had money left over, they gambled at fan tan. Special flags were flown at the Chinese Taoist temple, called by locals the “Joss House” after the sticks of incense used to honor the Gods of old China, “Joss” being incense. The Chinese even had a Christian Church operated by the Congregationalists where classes in English language were offered. It was a whole community of shops, restaurants, laundries, a barber shop, and employment agencies where ranchers could hire labor to plant and harvest crops.
New Years was a time of new bringing and the Chinese went to local business people and offered them good wishes and delectable treats. On the night of New Years a unique game was offered. Money was stuffed into a wooden football, and like a mortar shot into the air. Whoever the lucky man was to catch this prize got to keep the wealth! Maybe they could return to China, with enough money to buy some land and to farm and relax with tales of his adventures in “Gum San” the Land of the Golden Mountain (California). The Chinese community is marked with a colorful mural, just a block south of the old Mission San Buenaventura.