There are two historic sides to Barkerville.
The obvious side is the Cariboo gold rush that lends so much iconic imagery to the local area, while the other, less obvious side is rooted in a faraway eastern land. That Asian personality has been a part of the Barkerville legacy for the past 150 years and the modern caretakers of the Cariboo's living museum are celebrating that link this weekend.
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival has been a favourite mark on Barkerville's annual calendar for many years. This year it has special pop and sizzle, running two days instead of one to fit in all the activities.
Many people associate the arrival of the Chinese in Canada with the building of the railway, said Ying Ying Chen, the archaeologist who runs Barkervilles Historic Chinatown interpretation program. This important anniversary in Barkerville demonstrates how these immigrants came to our country much earlier than that, and how they made significant contributions to the economy of British Columbia before it was a part of Canada.
The place that best exemplifies the Chinese part of Barkerville's colourful past is the Chee Kung Tong building. It was erected by the Chinese Freemasons, said Barkerville's manager of visitor experiences James Douglas, "to help Chinese miners adjust to the realities of living so far from home, and to act as a hospice of sorts for those community members in need."
Although Barkerville has an entire Chinatown section, preserved in almost identical state from its real life version in the 19th century, the Chee Kung Tong building was the original structure. It is now the oldest ethnic Chinese structure in Canada, said Douglas, and was made its own National Historic Site in 2009.
"This makes Barkerville unique, in that we are simultaneously a Provincial Historic Site and a National Historic Site with a second National Historic Site within it, Douglas said.
The festival draws on all of that history.
On Saturday there will be lantern making, games, tours, music, Chinese school, and lion dances. In the evening there will be two seatings for a special celebratory banquet at the Lung Duck Tong restaurant (for reservations call 1-250-994-3458), more spectacular entertainment, and a lantern parade followed by fireworks.
On Sunday, in addition to more games, tours and lion dancing, there will be a series of short academic presentations related to the contribution of Chinese pioneers in British Columbia at Barkervilles Visitor Reception Centre.
According to Douglas and Chen, Mid-Autumn Moon Festivals have been held in Asia for more than 1,000 years. This Chinese holiday is equivalent to Thanksgiving in the western world and celebrates the abundance of the harvest with traditional music, martial arts displays, lantern building and bean curd or lotus seed moon cakes, shaped to reflect the harvest moon.