Contact: Kouichoy Saechao (510) 418-3309
Seng K Fong (510) 501-2976
September 8, 2008
For Saturday & Sunday, September 13 – 14, 2008, 10:30AM
485 – 105th Avenue
Oakland, CA 94603
Event sponsored by the Lao Iu Mien Culture Association, Inc.
GRAND OPENING for the first Temple: The King Pan Buddha Light Palace in the United States
On Saturday and Sunday, September 13 – 14, 2008, the Lao Iu Mien Culture Association (LIMCA) will host a grand opening of its first temple in the United States – The King Pan Buddha Light Palace.
The event will be held at the Iu Mien Cultural Center at 485 – 105th Avenue in Oakland.
The event is to celebrate the completion of the King Pan Buddha Light Palace which allows the Iu Mien People to have a spiritual space for Iu Mien people to re-connect to our cultural roots and also helps us adapt to our new environments.
At this historic event, we have Iu Mien (Yao) delegates from Canada, France, Laos, and Thailand to join us. Moreover, there is an Iu Mien International Unity and Networking Conference on Iu Mien identity and culture that will take place on Monday, September 15, 2008, right after the Grand Opening celebration.
In Oakland, there are about 4000 Iu Mien, with about 10000 in the SF Bay Area, and over 35,000 throughout the United States. The Iu Mien came to the US from Laos, where they lived in the highlands and worked for the US government during the Vietnam War. They had to flee Laos as refugees when the American effort failed.
The Lao Iu Mien Culture Association (LIMCA) has provided services and support to the Iu Mien community for nearly 30 years. At the same time, it has worked with the community at-large and with neighborhoods in promoting racial harmony at the grass roots. In this and many other ways, LIMCA has promoted the adjustments and smoother transitions of Iu Mien families in the U.S.
Historical Background on the Iu Mien
Iu Mien culture has survived migration through numerous host countries over the course of hundreds of years. Despite relocation, both in peacetime and war, the Iu Mien have maintained a strong community structure and culture which has sustained them in the last 30 years through fleeing their most recent home country of Laos, to refugee camps in Thailand, to resettlement in the U.S.
In both Laos and replicated in Thailand, Iu Mien villages were close-knit with the homes
encircling the center of the village. The village center was where the elderly would visit and
watch the younger children in the village. It was where all could gather to help discipline
each other’s children when needed, to garden together, and to pass on Iu Mien culture, such as in storytelling or through the traditional art form of embroidery.
In the U.S. and Oakland specifically, Iu Mien live in dispersed neighborhoods throughout the city. Without a village center, the social and spiritual spaces, there will be a loss in having a place to share and cultivate Iu Mien culture.
The Iu Mien people feel strongly that in order to become productive citizens in America, we need to maintain and preserve our cultural values, our confidence, our sense of security, and our identity. In 1996, the Lao Iu Mien Culture Association (LIMCA) purchased this property of 27,000 square foot to establish an “Iu Mien Cultural Center” for the Iu Mien people to call “Home/Village”. It will be a place to preserve Iu Mien cultural heritage, to bridge the generation gaps in the Iu Mien families, and to share our culture with surrounding diverse community.
In July 2003, LIMCA celebrated the completion of its first phase Iu Mien Community Center – one fourth (1/4) of the Iu Mien Community Center.
In May 2007, LIMCA celebrated the groundbreaking for construction of its very first temple – the King Pan Buddha Light Place in the United States.
Today’s celebration marks a new chapter and historic moment of Iu Mien Community’s empowerment and their achievement in America. Mr. Kouichoy Saechao, the Chairman of the Board of Directors says, “The King Pan Buddha Light Palace will mark the beginning in providing a space for the Iu Mien people, young and old, to reconnect with one another and to preserve our identity and pride in being Iu Mien, and it is a space for us to worship our forefather “King Pan”, our ancestors, deities, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas for our well beings.”
This celebration is a culmination of a 30 year search to establish a home/village, which brought the Iu Mien community as far as West Virginia and Alabama. Finally, we found our home/village in San Francisco Bay Area in November 1996. Our dream is to have a two story Iu Mien Community Center that will hold a large auditorium, classrooms, office, mini museum, library, and residency for monks and nuns and the King Pan Temple in front building as a place for healing.
A central part of the cultural core of the Iu Mien are ceremonies which are deeply integrated into the culture and which come from Taoist traditions of honoring ancestors. Within these strong Iu Mien traditions are ceremonies which mark major human passages, such as birth, marriage, and death. Transplanted to the U.S., the Oakland Iu Mien community has come to celebrate and honor school graduations as an important passage for the youth in the community.
Another important set of traditional ceremonies embedded in the Iu Mien culture are healing practices which attend to the health of an individual along with the health of their family, their ancestors, animals, and world around them. Most of these ceremonies bring together the strength and energy of the greater Iu Mien community, calling upon a wider community to help in healing the individual, the family, community, their ancestors, and deliver other world around them. Although Western medicine has been incorporated into the curative practices of Iu Mien Americans, these traditional healing practices are also an essential part of the healing process.
There are factors which limit the ability of an individual Iu Mien family to hold these ceremonies –both healing and life passage ones—in their own homes. There is the size of the gathering, often with scores of people. There often is chanting for hours and burning of incense. None of these are conducive to dense urban living quarters with neighbors of different cultural backgrounds. Holding such ceremonies at the Iu Mien Cultural Center: The King Pan Buddha Light Palace will facilitate the on-going practice of these ceremonies and continue to strengthen the cultural core of the Iu Mien community.