Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bok Kai Temple

I need help from Taishanese native speakers out there on pronunciation and usage! Hidden in an SF Chronicle article, I found a reference to the historic Bok Kai Temple in Marysville. On the temple’s website and on Wikipedia, I saw the temple’s name transcribed as 北溪廟.

On the Wikipedia page, there is another reference to this deity as “Bok Eye” with a link to a page on Xuan Wu 玄武, who is also referred to as the Northern Emperor or Bei Di 北帝. “Bok Eye” looks like an English transcription of the Taishanese pronunciation of 北帝. You probably see where I’m going…

Is 北溪 a Taishanese eggcorn for 北帝? If so, that would be really cool. Or maybe I’m just missing out on a bigger piece of Chinese history and culture.

Do you know of other references to 北溪?


  1. Hello Aaron,

    According to the temple's official pamphlet, 北溪 was used because of the proximity and location of the temple to the Yuba River in Marysville, though the deity is 北帝.

    If you google 北溪廟, the only reference is to the temple in Marysville. When you google 北帝廟, there are many references to temples with a large number of them in Hong Kong (transliterated as Pak Tai). So the temple in Marysville is unique not just for its history, but also for its name.


  2. Thanks for the information, Anna! I really appreciate it. I just thought it was cool that the pronunciation of 北溪 and 北帝 are so coincidentally similar in Taishanese (bāk-kai and bāk-ai), such that in fluid conversational speech, 北帝 actually sounds the same as 北溪. But it’s just fanciful speculation for me to assume that 北溪 is an eggcorn or that the explanation of the temple’s name based on proximity to the Yuma River is a folk etymology. As you say, the temple’s name is wonderfully unique, and even the English transcription of 北帝 as “Bok I” or “Bok Eye” is wonderful evidence of the temple’s enduring Taishanese heritage.

  3. the Bok Kai temple of Marysville was once attributed to saving the area around the temple from flooding. Every year around the 2nd day of the second month of the lunar new year is the Bok Kai festival in honor of the diety. It is a uniquely Chinese American festival. No where else in the world is the firing of the rings in the air and a mad scramble to catch them occurs.