I took advantage of a break in the weather here in the Pacific Northwest and drove down to the the Tacoma Waterfront to check out the progress of the much anticipated completion of a new Chinese Garden Park sponsored by the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation. The garden is located adjacent to the grassy knolled Jack Hyde Park along Ruston Way near Old Town Tacoma. I was hoping that some of the patches of blue sky were still present when I arrived, but as luck would have it, the thick gray clouds were amassing once again and I had to work quickly with my camera before the raindrops began falling. What I came to see was the new pagoda that was carefully erected over the past few months by a team of both local and Chinese workers. The pagoda was a gift from Tacoma’s sister city of Fuzhou, China. It is erected, but the laborious paint job is not yet completed.
And now for a little bit of background about the Chinese Garden Park and why it was built. It was decided years ago that this park be constructed to help heal old wounds from a decades-old dark episode in Tacoma’s history. Up and down the US west coast, Chinese laborers made their home until they were forcefully made to leave in the late 1880’s mainly due to the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The then mayor of Tacoma came up with an idea called the Tacoma Method in 1884 that imposed a deadline by which Chinese immigrants were to leave the city. The few hundred that were still living in Tacoma in 1885 were forced out of their settlements by an organized mob and made to board a train to leave town. So that is the story behind the park, and it serves not just as another pretty cultural icon in the city, but as a reminder of its rich, cultural history and a showing of respect to the people who helped shape its destiny.
As a walked around this little Chinese Garden snapping photos of the traditional footbridge and the pagoda, I noticed one lone person working on the pagoda. I struck up small conversation with him, praising him and the city for this wonderful, new cultural attraction being erected along Tacoma’s popular waterfront. As I commented on the deep, red color paint being used on the pagoda, he mentioned that the paint is derived from tree sap and that it is very thick and difficult to work with and can only be applied at cool temperatures. I thought to myself, “Well, that should not be a problem around here!” I didn’t want to detain the worker from his important business at hand, so I thanked him and continued about my business of snapping photographs all the while being aware of approaching rain. Satisfied, I hurried back to my car as a few light sprinkles started.