Ring in the Year of the Tiger
Beijing is gearing up for Spring Festival, China’s biggest holiday, and come February 14, 2010, it’ll be time to celebrate in lao Beijing fashion. Do as the locals do: Bundle up and head to the temple fairs around town.
The tradition of temple fairs extends back a thousand years, and nowadays you’ll find a cornucopia of regional foods, arts and crafts, and traditional performances on display in Beijing. Go back in time to the Qing dynasty, play traditional games, eat fancy treats or get tech-savvy – there’s more to Chinese New Year than the fireworks exploding throughout the city.
Beijing’s Carnival: Chaoyang Park
Dubbed the “International Spring Festival Carnival,” this modern, multicultural temple fair has become a favorite of many Chaoyang residents since it was first held in 2002. As its name indicates, the fair features performers from all over the world. The best of both Eastern and Western cultures are on full display, with music, dance, drama, fashion, magic tricks, acrobats, costume parades and even standup comedy throughout the fair. Toss in the sound and light shows and a day spent at Chaoyang Park is more than enough for even the most high-energy tykes.
Feb 14-Feb 19, 9am-5pm; RMB 10
Chaoyang Park (6506 7223)
Everything Lao Beijing: Ditan Park
You’ll find Beijing’s biggest traditional Spring Festival temple fair in Ditan Park. Every year, folk artists gather here to showcase crafts like Chinese fan-painting and to perform kung fu, acrobatic tricks and a type of comedy called xiangsheng (相声). Catch a Sichuan opera performance and watch as actors spout fire and change their elaborate face paintings with just a shake of the head.
Check out the many regional arts such as nianhua (Chinese New Year’s paintings) from Tianjin and wood carvings from Dongbei. Look on as artisans make tanghua, a Chengdu treat-on-a-stick; artists use melted sugar to draw dragons or phoenixes on marble boards and then attach the sweet to a stick for handy eating.
Kids can have fun playing traditional Chinese games such as diuqianyan (tossing coins into a hole in the middle of a well) and taoquan’r (throwing hoops around wooden or clay figures on the ground). Many traditional toys can be found here too, like bolanggu (a small drum with two drumming balls attached to its sides), fengche (a small pinwheel) – toys that have disappeared from modern shopping malls.
Feb 13-Feb 20, 9am-5pm; Price TBD
Best of the Best: Longtan Park
Famous for its local performance competitions, Longtan Park is where you can find the best stilt-walking, unicycling and boat dancing (a traditional performance where two
people “row” a life-sized canoe made of paper) in the city. The invigorating sounds of Chinese drums and elaborate lion and dragon dances amplify the energy here. Visitors also come to watch the niuyangge (harvest dance), a popular rural dance that farmers perform.
The coolest low-tech attraction at the fair is probably the layangpian’r, a form of motion pictures developed in Beijing in the late 1800s, similar to the zoetrope that was invented in the UK. A performer turns a crank that moves a series of drawings or photos inside a dark box, creating a moving image that viewers can watch through peepholes while the performer accompanies the story with a song. This peculiar little movie box was a major form of entertainment for Beijing kids 100 years ago.
Feb 13 and on; RMB 10
Go Geek: Zhongguancun Square
We really are living in a high-tech era – even Chinese temple fairs have gone digital. Since 2007, Zhongguancun in Haidian District, known as Beijing’s Silicon Valley, has hosted an annual technology temple fair, featuring scientific demonstrations, interactive games and environment-friendly products. Not only is this fair renao for both kids and adults alike, but it’s also educational.
The fair is comprised of a sports area, a science and technology area, and a gaming zone as well as local arts performances. If you can drag your kids away from the computer games, have fun observing the magical powers of electricity, sound and light. Food isn’t a highlight of the fair, so be prepared for a purely scientific and cultural experience.
Feb 14-Feb 19; Free
Zhongguancun Pedestrian Street, Zhongguancun Square, Haidian District