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During the Chinese Spring Festival holiday period, one of the biggest celebrations in Beijing are the temple fairs. For Beijingers, this is also the leading custom and a traditional activity during the first week of the first lunar month. Temple fairs are a blend of both history and society. Nowadays, they do more of a traditional folk twist rather than a religious practice. They bring together tourism, amusement, food, and shopping, spiced up with ethnic traditions.
Ditan Park temple fair is held from the 1st to the 6th day of the first lunar month and attracts about one million visitors annually. The temple fair is often labelled as a modern version of the 'Along the River During the Qingming Festival', a painting by the Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan. Here you can see folk performances including lion dances, the Ansai waist drum danceі, and ethnic dances of Tu and Zhuang people. Exhibitions of national folk photographs and intangible cultural heritage are also held during the fair. For snacks, you can try Beijing traditional dishes such as Cha Tang (rice noodles with various seasonings), dry-fried beans, Jia Quan (fried dough sticks that are even more delicious when dipped into doujiang, thick soy milk), and Nian Gao (Chinese New Year cakes). The reenactment of the sacrifice ceremony held at 10 am revives the customs of emperors of the Qing Dynasty. Back in the times, they prayed to the god of the earth for blessing and prosperity. The program also features plenty of other performances like traditional Tibetan folk dances, comedy cross talk, and ancient magic.
Changdian temple fair, running from the 1st to 5th of the first lunar month, is the only fair that is listed as the national intangible cultural heritage. This temple fair is called Beijing's artistic card and is one of the largest and most popular temple fairs in Beijing. It is special due to the unique calligraphy works and paintings. Also, the snacks like Tanghulus and pinwheels won't leave you hungry. You can see folk performances as well, such as stilt walking and the five tigers staff fighting. In 2011, the Changdian temple fair moved to Taoranting Park, but in 2018 it returned to the original spot in Liulichang district of Beijing.
Longtan Park temple fair, also held over the first five days of the first lunar month at Longtan Park, is another popular fair among both domestic and foreign visitors because of its unique culture, sports, and rich customs. One of the highlights of the Longtan fair is sports performances in various disciplines from judo and taekwondo to free combat and wrestling by professional sportsmen. Players from the national Go game team guide tourists and locals to play the game of Go.
Daguanyuan (Grand View Garden) temple fair is the only temple with a strong cultural theme. One of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, named 'Dream of the Red Chamber', gives this temple festival an unmatched cultural background. Every year from 1st to 5th of the first lunar month, the market uses different forms to show the charm of the story. You can see the classic scenes from the book such as the wedding of Baoyu and Baochai, homecoming of Tanchun, meeting of Baoyu and Daiyu, and others. Entertainment inside the garden also features other shows by singers, acrobats and dancers on the stage and Chinese-style carnival games. If you get hungry, you can feast on a variety of traditional snacks.
There are about a dozen temple fairs in Beijing, each with its own character. All of them get crowded rather quickly, so try to arrive early to see the parades, do some fair shopping, and take nice pictures. The dates might differ, so please double-check the dates and times for each specific temple fair.