Chinese New Year, commonly known as the Spring Festival, is only one day away and already the country can be seen to be festively aglow. There are many things associated with Chinese New year, but it's the flame-red lanterns, festive fireworks, exquisite flower lanterns and New Year's Eve dinner that truly stand out as the key elements of this festive holiday.
The Spring Festival is not only an occasion for Chinese people to be reunited with their families but it is also a great time for foreigners in China to know more about the nation's most important festival and, above all, participate in a series of festive and fun activities.
Many scenic spots in Hangzhou have now announced their New Year activities and without exception they are all themed on 'the Spring Festival' which in turn shed light on traditional elements of Chinese New Year and enable visitors to fully immerse themselves in the spirit of the Spring Festival.
Join Temple Fairs to Pray for Fortune
It is traditionally known that around the time of the Spring Festival locals will visit Buddhist temples to worship Buddha (offerings are served and incenses are burned) praying for a smooth and bumper year ahead. Currently the earliest known reference to this custom is in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), while the custom of people rising early to burn the first incense was already popular before this date.
To witness this custom at first hand, then visit Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou Orient Culture Park, Leifeng Pagoda and Xianghu Lake Scenic Area.
Hangzhou Orient Leisure Park
From the first to the seventh day of the lunar month (Feb. 8 to Feb. 14), Hangzhou Orient Culture Park will hold 'Auspicious Monkey* Big Parade to Celebrate the Spring Festival'.
* According to Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2016 is the year of monkey, one of twelve Chinese zodiac signs.
Xianghu Lake Scenic Area
In Xianghu Scenic Area, a temple fair and various other kinds of activity will be available for those wanting to pray for fortune in the coming Chinese New Year. A must see is 'King of Yue State Praying for Fortune' which starts at 13:18 on the first day of the first lunar month (Feb. 8) and features dragon and lion dances and actors dressed as ancient kings, queens, ministers and soldiers.
During this event you may be the lucky one to receive a piece of calligraphy inscribed '福* (fortune)' given personally by the 'King of Yue State' or even be chosen to step aboard a painted boat escorted by four dragon boats, with the King of Yue State, to enjoy views of the Xianghu Lake.
* The Chinese character '福' means fortune in Chinese and the calligraphic work of the word is a must-have during Chinese New Year and is usually posted upside down on one's front door which then implies that good fortune will arrive.
Traditional Folk Activities
It is in Xixi National Wetland Park that one can witness the whole process of a water town wedding ceremony where Chinese match-makers, Yuelao – Chinese equivalent of Cupid, wedding parade team, Suona Horn*, sedan-chair carrying the bride and other essential traditional elements are presented.
* Suona Horn is a Chinese music instrument with loud and high-pitched sounds commonly played in wedding ceremonies.
The time around the Spring Festival is also a wonderful time in which to view plum blossom as well as traditional new year folk culture activities and creative games, of which Xixi boat fist - an intangible heritage of Zhejiang Province originating in the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) and Yue opera – the second most popular opera form out of 360 genres of China are both worth mentioning.
In the important period of epidemic prevention and control, in order to control the number of tourists in real time, to facilitate tourists to enter the park quickly, and to ensure the safety of tourists to the greatest extent, starting from this Friday (March 20), Xixi National Wetland Park will open online reservation channels.