HANFORD — China Alley’s Taoist Temple Museum and the city of Hanford itself were blessed with luck by the lions of the Cal Poly Lion Dance Team at the 40th annual Moon Festival Saturday.
Hundreds filled the historic alleyway to see a performance by the lion dancers as well as a performance by the Fresno Gumyo Taiko drummers.
“We performed to bless the Taoist Temple and bring it good luck and to bring good luck to all the people who came here as well,” said performer and former Cal Poly Lion Dance Team captain Ren Yee.
Four performers hidden inside two colorful lions bounded through the crowd of hundreds Saturday afternoon. The tradition dates back to nearly 1,000 B.C.
Some audience members close enough to the action were even lucky enough to be vomited on. You heard that correctly – being puked on by a dancing lion is a good omen.
“It is said that when the lions ingest [lettuce] it’s a sign of good luck, but the lions can’t really digest it, so they spit it up back on the people. So the people who get hit by it get the good luck,” Yee said.
Others in the audience, mostly children, lined the alleyway for their chance to spread good fortune to the lions.
“By feeding the lions money, they will bless you with good fortune in the future,” Yee, a Cal Poly physics student, said of the tradition.
In addition to multiple performances by the lion dance team and the Taiko drummers, the alley was as alive and vibrant as ever. Visitors took tours of the Taoist Temple and were allowed a rare glimpse into the original L.T. Sue Herb Co. building.
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In the Taoist Temple gift shop, mementos were available to purchase to raise funds to preserve the Kings Laundry building, built more than 100 years ago by the Tagawa family. The building was operated by Naomi Tagawa until 2015. The China Alley Preservation Society, which organizes the Moon Festival event annually, hopes to raise $100,000 by Naomi’s 100th birthday in February. The plan is to eventually turn the building into a museum honoring the contributions of Hanford’s Japanese population. First, the building must be given a foundation and its porch must be restored.
Other local groups set up booths in the alley, including The Salad Bowl Multicultural Club, which provided henna tattoos, The Hanford Bonsai Society and the Kings Players, who are currently prepping for their next production at the Temple Theater, which was originally built as a school for Hanford’s Chinese children in 1922.
The Plein Aire Painters, a collective of local artists, were showing and selling their paintings of local landmarks. Lately, China Alley has been the subject of the group’s work.
“[China Alley] is great inspiration because of the history here,” said artist Sharon Banister.
“There’s a lot of history that people here remember. They’ll come through and say, ‘I remember eating there’ or ‘I remember the Dynasty,’” said artist Diana Leoni.
The collective meets once a week and paint for three to four hours after deciding as a group which piece of Hanford they’ll be capturing. They’ve been painting China Alley for about a month.
“You can always do it differently,” said Banister. “Different perspective, different lighting, different view.”
Leoni said that she’ll often depict China Alley the way she remembers it, or more accurately, the way she’d like to see it again — a thriving and busy part of downtown Hanford.