The centerpiece of Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Park is well protected from bad energy.
Dragon heads, sacred fish and fierce lions incorporated into the architecture of the wood-beamed pavilion — “ting” in Mandarin — are meant to ward off negative chi.
Alas, the totems haven’t proven very effective against bad weather and people with ill intentions.
Barely four years after the bright red structure opened to the public, a team from Tacoma’s sister city of Fuzhou, China, has been flown in to give the ting a facelift.
The four men began their work Aug. 15 and will be at it for a month, said Lihuang Wung of Tacoma’s planning and development service’s department.
They are working 10 hours a day to scour off and replace peeling paint, repair lattice damaged by vandals and do other renovations.
“It’s kind of weathered,” Wung said recently.
“We are very glad and grateful for their generosity,” he said of the repair crew from China. “They have the expertise. They know the structure inside out.”
The city of Tacoma has set aside $40,000 for expenses associated with the renovation.
That includes room and board for the Chinese workers and the cost of getting their supplies through U.S. Customs, said Debbie Bingham, economic development specialist and sister cities coordinator.
“I don’t think we’ll get to that number, but the customs charges were $8,000,” Bingham said.
Fuzhou paid the men’s airfare and bought many of the supplies needed for the renovations.
Lin Yang is a senior engineer with the Fuzhou Municipal Commission of Urban and Rural Construction and is leading the Fuzhou team.
“It was requested that Fuzhou provide some help, and, therefore, we sent a team,” said Yang, whose comments were interpreted by Wung.
“It is evidence of how Fuzhou highly regards the relationship between the two cities. It is a way for us to express our love and passion for Tacoma.”
The ting opened in September 2011, the centerpiece of a 3.9-acre park along the waterfront near Old Town, built to atone for the 1885 expulsion from Tacoma of 200 Chinese immigrants.
The structure was a gift from the people of Fuzhou, one of Tacoma’s 13 sister cities. The Chinese city sent a delegation of people to Washington to help in its construction.
Two of those men have returned to renovate it.
Yang helped to design the ting but was not among the group that came to Tacoma originally to build it.
He said he was surprised at the damage.
The fact that the Chinese crew’s visas expired before the construction was completed in 2011 might have contributed to the premature damage, because U.S. workers who completed the job were not trained to carry out some highly specialized tasks, Yang said.
Exposure to saltwater and dampness also likely played a role, he said.
The ting is closed to the public while the work is underway.
On a recent day the crew clambered over scaffolding and used hammers, chisels and power buffers to remove peeling and faded red lacquer from wooden beams and boards.
The crew brought three large containers of lacquer with them to re-coat the pavilion, Yang said.
They relished the weather, saying temperatures in the high 80s were still much cooler than those back home in Fuzhou, which is in southeastern China.
“And the air is clean,” Yang said.
They’ve also enjoyed some local hospitality.
A woman at a tavern bought them a pitcher of beer when they stopped in after first arriving in town, Yang said through Wung.
“The people are very friendly,” he said.
Teresa Pan Hosley, president of the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation, stopped by to inspect the work. She pointed out that the ting has become a popular place for weddings and other special events.
“It’s a beautiful structure,” Hosley said. “I think it’s going to become a symbol of Tacoma. It’s just an amazing place.”