Beijing’s Dragon Year Temple Fairs


Dongyue Temple,Beijing tours, 8.30am-midday on Monday 16 and 8.30am-4.30pm from Monday 23 to Saturday 28.

Housing the Beijing Folk Customs Museum, this temple (originally built in 1319) is host to one of Beijing’s most traditional Spring Festival fairs. The most recent version of its temple fair kicked off in 1999.

Themed this year ‘soaring golden dragon’, like any good old fair it will feature drum troops, Chinese opera, acrobatics and cross-talk shows will provide plenty of noise and entertainment.

The Spring Festival fairs were, of course, a much bigger deal. Back in the day, it was the Changdian fair that raked in the crowds, with long sticks of sweetened hawthorn fruits and visiting opera stars guaranteed. To get a real taste of the Chinese New Year or just to get outside, we’ve picked out a whole range of outdoor festivities for today’s fair-goer.

Temple fairs have been a part of daily life in Beijing for hundreds of years becoming especially popular during the Qing dynasty. Scattered all over the city so residents could easily make their way to the nearest, some fairs were held as regularly as every fortnight. Between stalls perhaps hawking the kind of tat we all find so difficult to resist (especially during the holiday season) were opera and acrobatic troupes, puppet shows and cross-talk (the Qing equivalent of a stand-up comedy act).

The fair will also feature an exhibition of antique Chinese boxes. Not necessarily one for thrill-seekers out there, this should be pretty fascinating with genuine pieces dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties. ‘But why an exhibition on boxes?’ You may well ask. Since the Chinese word for box (he) sounds like the word for harmony, the exhibition is all part of the plan to ring in an auspicious New Year. There will also be an exhibition of the Chinese zodiac beasties in various guises, with no prizes for guessing which animal will be taking top spot.

Wooden puppets, block puzzles and a whole bunch of old-time games will keep the little ones busy and you’ll also be able to choose from a host of Chinese snacks such as lvdagun (a kind of bean flour roll) and wandouhuang (yellow pea flour cakes).

The temple will be giving out couplets written on the spot by local calligraphers and holding talks on traditional Chinese etiquette.