This coming Laba Day, on Jan 5, Lingyin Temple will be handing out, at 120 points across Hangzhou, 3000 bowls of Laba congee for free and Lingyin Temple, itself, will be open to the public for free. All citizens are welcome to join the Laba Ceremony and culture forum held at Lingyin Temple that day.
More than a traditional festival, receiving Laba Congee on Laba Day is also a custom to memorize Shakyamuni Buddha. In the olden times, monks in the temple received the food such as beans, rice and dried fruit donated by the Buddhist followers, and on the Laba Day the monks would use the remaining beans, rice, and dried fruit to make congee and distribute the congee to these followers to return the favor.
According to the Abbot, Guangquan, Lingyin temple has revived the tradition of making Laba congee since the temple reopened in 1978, and has given out Laba congee in large scale for eight years. Since last year, Lingyin’s Laba custom has been listed as the sixth group of intangible cultural heritages in Hangzhou and will become one of the fifth group of intangible cultural heritages in Zhejiang.
Abbot Guangquan hoped that the custom of making Laba congee could go further in the future and become the cultural heritage of the country or even the world, and make a contribution to the heritage of human beings.
Since the first day of La month, the last month in the traditional Chinese calendar, Lingyin Temple has delivered Laba congee to hospitals, nursing houses, charity organizations and schools for children from migrant families. On Laba Day, they will give out Laba congee through the 120 points in the community and charity organizations. With the cooperation of 30 media groups, this activity will be spread to other cities of Taizhou, Lishui and Yiwu and so on.
The Laba congee this year is made of 11 ingredients which include jumble beans, lotus seeds, longan, kidney beans, gingko fruit, peanuts, glutinous rice and so on. The total weight of the ingredients is more than 50 tons and will be divided into 300,000 bowls. The osmanthus candy used in the congee is made by volunteers and the monks in Lingyin Temple.
For environmental reasons, the Laba congee will not be delivered in plastic bowls but in silver paper which is more environment-friendly. Guangquan reminds citizens that silver paper cannot be heated in the microwave oven for it might cause an explosion.
On Laba Day, Linyin Temple will open to the public for free and will hold a Laba “Blessing, Preach and Worship” Ceremony. At that time, personalities and folk culture experts will be invited to the Laba cultural forum to discuss the heritage and development of this festival.
In Jiande, there is an ancient town that has experienced thousands of years of wind and rain. It has a beautiful name called Meicheng (Plum Blossom Town). Meicheng was the state town of the then Yanzhou and is now the county town of Jiande. It has a history of 1700 years.