Monthly Features

Good Fortune in Beijing

 Welcome the Year of the Dog at the capital’s lively temple fairs

Temple fairs, located at various points around Beijing during the run-up to the Spring Festival, are, like everything else in the capital city, on a vast scale.

The fairs are held in the first few days of Chinese New Year, acting as huge outdoor markets for people to buy festive decorations and foods. The atmosphere is joyful and friendly, with a range of entertainment also on offer to add to the celebratory mood.

The largest of the fairs is held at Ditan Park, in the older section of the city, and an estimated million people attend every year. As well as featuring row upon row of stalls selling holiday-related goods, there is entertainment in the form of puppet shows, acrobatic shows and opera singers.

Another treat is the re-enactment of Qing Dynasty-style ceremonies, with actors dressed in extravagant imperial costumes. The park is home to the Temple of the Earth, one of the most significant sites during earlier eras, visited by the emperor himself during the Summer Solstice to pray for good harvests ahead.

As well as Chinese New Year-themed decorations and calendars, this particular fair is known for its wide variety of traditional hawker snacks and displays of art and handicrafts.

Not far away is the Dongyue Temple, which also has an annual fair in its tree-lined grounds. It is one of the most intriguing temples in the city, with some wooden buildings dating back to the 14th century and a series of rooms containing fearsome-looking statues that are designed to represent the work of the different Taoist ‘judgement panels’, including the Department of Pity and Sympathy.

The grounds are decorated with Fu, the character for good fortune, and visitors can walk on the Fu Road or purchase smaller Fu cards to invite luck. Dongyue Temple also has a small folk museum that is worth investigating.

In the south of the city, the Changdian Temple fair is one of the largest, with hundreds of vendors selling art, antiques, calligraphy, tea and of course, goods and food that relate to Chinese New Year celebrations. In former eras, there were three temples in the vicinity. Even though they are now gone, the Changdian Temple fair is still one of the largest in the city.

On the outer limits of Beijing is the old Summer Palace that also hosts an annual temple fair. Performances also take place throughout the day, with actors and singers dressed in the elaborate and colourful costumes of previous dynasties.

Whichever temple fair you choose – and there are plenty within easy reach of the Beijing Clubhouse – rest assured that the atmosphere will be absolutely magical. The build-up to the Lunar Year is a great time to be in the city, as people prepare enthusiastically for the biggest holiday of the year and visitors are welcome to join in.