Monday, May 16, 2011

Pacific Grove, California

Pacific Grove is a charming little town on California's Monterey Peninsula, near Pebble Beach, Monterey, and Carmel. The beach at Pacific Grove still looks very much like this.

The swimming pool was located directly above the beach. Note the red lanterns hanging above the pool and down below towards the beach; that's an indication that they were probably getting ready for the annual Feast of Lanterns, a tradition since 1905.  The festival is hard to describe. In the past it has had a hokey small-town flavor to it, which made it really fun. There is a play, a pageant, a pet parade, and fireworks. Years ago it was a small enough event that you always ran into people you knew. I'm not sure that's the case anymore.

The festival is meant to honor the former Chinese residents of the area. From the 1850s until 1906, Chinese immigrants lived in a little fishing village along the water, not far from here.  The fishermen were very successful, hauling in lots of abalone, squid, and fish. Their success, the value of the land, and anti-Chinese sentiments made them a natural target. In 1906, their village burned down, and they were then evicted by the landholder. Although there is no record of how the fire started, Pacific Grove residents stood by and cheered as the fire erupted. At least 170 Chinese were displaced by the fire.

The festival is a fun event. I would probably enjoy it more if I didn't relate it to the actual history - and the Feast of Lanterns play, a reenactment of the "Legend of the Blue Willow" is a little cringeworthy, with  Caucasians dressed up as Asians, and plenty of stereotypes.  In recent years Pacific Grove has also made efforts to officially commemorate the fire and the people who were displaced by it, including walking tours of the former village site.


  1. I agree, it would be hard to watch a reenactment of such an act of hatred. Beautiful beach though.

  2. Lots of details, seen and unseen, in your Red Lantern District postcard. Some people ordered leave. Then pyromaniacs did their thing. Does fire always purify, as they think? Hmm. Persecution, as old as mankind...

  3. It's an unfortunate story to be sure, but I like the sounds of the reenactment. I just get a hoot out of seeing white folk made up as Asians, Blacks, or American Indians!

  4. The people on the sandy beach are so tiny that they look like ants.

  5. How interesting! I had not heard of the Lantern Festival before.

  6. I've always liked Pacific Grove. A nice little hidden enclave. And I was surprised to find out Asilomar is a state park. I always thought it was a private conference center. Driven by, but never gone in. Now I want to stay there.



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