Two miles west of Downtown Los Angeles, in an ethnically mixed neighborhood on the edge of Koreatown, stands an old apartment building whose prosaic exterior belies its religious significance to thousands of Vietnamese refugees.
It is the Chua Viet-Nam, a Buddhist temple and the main center of Vietnamese culture for the half of the 170,000 Vietnamese living in Los Angeles and Orange counties who are Buddhist.
In 1977, while working on educational material for refugee children, Don Farber was invited to spend a Sunday afternoon inside the temple. The visit would become the first of hundreds of weekly trips he made to the corner of 9th and Berendo.
"I had never been to Vietnam and knew the Vietnamese only as they had been portrayed during the war--as guerrillas, napalm victims or body counts," says Farber, now 36 and a commercial photographer. "But inside the temple I found a cultural oasis where Vietnamese, here less than two years and still confused by the assimilation process, were attempting to re-create the spiritual atmosphere they once enjoyed back home.