Chinese Temple Fairs

Temple Fairs (庙会 miào​huì​) are very important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Back in the days the purpose of these fairs were to attract people to Taoist and Buddhist temples, where they could see temple rituals, various kinds of performances and do a little shopping. The history of temple fairs in Beijing dates back to the days of Liao Dynasty (907–1125), but they only became massively popular amongst the people during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911).

When the times passed, the fairs developed more and more colorful and well-liked and especially the biggest temples attracted very large number of people and the fairs could go on for a whole week. The timing of great temple fairs would be settled based on the birthday of each temples special god, but it also became more and more common to have large-scale celebrations around the Chinese New Year.

Like stated before, the roots of temple fairs were religious, but the importance of the performances and bargain hunting grew year by year. People could follow wonderful lion and dragon dances, play games and admire the talent of Chinese craftsmen. Nevertheless, to respect the traditions, the performances would still always face the temple. Most popular performances were opera, acrobatics, shadow puppet shows and cross talks.

The New Year traditions also buying new things for the coming year. It was especially typical to buy clothes for the whole family. This phenomenon can actually be compared to western Christmas gift tradition. As there was demand for shopping, the markets would naturally grow in both in the sense of size and diversity. And of course the food loving Chinese people would also start selling small snacks and other delicacies at the market for the joy of hungry visitors.

Temple fairs are still an important phenomenon in China and interesting experience for visitors. Now days it is convenient to find information about the upcoming fairs from internet and one can seek inspiration by for example first getting to know the temple fairs in Beijing.

The importance of temple fairs to the Chinese culture and Chinese New Year is the reason why we have decided to celebrate the Lunar New Year by organizing temple fair also here in Helsinki!

Text: Janna Lipiäinen