Praying for good fortune at Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year's Eve in China might be all about fireworks, family, and the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. But come New Year's day, locals flock to temples to pray.
Take Shanghai for example. Here, the venue of choice for many is Longhua temple.
Longhua Temple (龙华寺)
The largest, oldest and most complete ancient temple complex in the city, the 20,000-square-meter Longhua Temple dates back 1,800 years or more.
Like in most temples in China, don't expect to see original buildings in Longhua. Most of the present-day structures dates from later reconstructions (the final one around 1954), but the temple preserves the architectural design of a Song Dynasty monastery of the Buddhist Chan (Zen) sect.
Ensure good luck
Chinese Buddhists go to temples to pray on the first and 15th day of every lunar month. The Lunar New Year praying rush normally starts from Lunar New Year’s Eve.
The devout line up hours in advance, hoping to ensure their good luck in the coming year by lighting the first incense (touxiang).
Lunar New Year worshipers go to Buddhist temples across China on the night of January 22 or the morning of January 23.
Essential New Year knowledge
Lunar New Year is also called Spring Festival or Nian (年), a legendary monster in ancient China.
According to legend, Nian was half-dragon half-unicorn, who would descend on villages to devour grain, livestock and people.
The villagers lived in fear during the New Year, not knowing how terrible Nian’s next return would be or how to tame the monster.
One New Year's Eve, a stranger with a long white beard came to a village. While the rest of the villagers went to hide from Nian, the old man stayed to tame the creature.
As night fell, Nian appeared and approached the house where the old man was staying. He stopped as he saw the red paper hanging on the door. At once, the air exploded with firecrackers.
As Nian cowered in fear, the old man stepped from behind the door, dressed in red from head to toe. The monster fled in terror.
When the villagers returned, the old man told them the secret of how to defeat Nian: “He fears the color red, dazzling lights and loud noise. This is how you frighten away Nian.”
From that year on, Chinese villagers followed the wise man's instructions on Lunar New Year and Nian never returned.
Longhua Temple (龙华寺), 2853 Longhua Lu, near Longhua Xi Lu 龙华路2853号, 近龙华西路, admission: RMB 10. The first and 15th day on lunar calendar: 5 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; the rest: 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m.