If you’re going to be in Beijing over the Chinese New Year holidays (like me), take the opportunity to visit a temple fair. Temple fairs (or miaohui) are traditional celebrations replete with religious ceremonies, folk performances, traditional crafts (such as paper cutting and scroll writing), vendors hawking toys and kitsch, and scrumptious snack stalls. They usually take place at temples and parks, but several international schools also organize their own. Click through for a rundown of 2012 temple fairs. Be prepared: temple fairs can get very crowded during the holidays.
School Temple Fairs:
BCIS Temple Fair 2012
Already in its fourth edition, Beijing City International School’s temple fair features live student performances, special guests, folk arts, Beijing opera, and acrobatics. More than 50 vendors will be onsite at the school gym to sell Chinese arts and crafts, as well as traditional Chinese treats.
Free. 11am-1pm. BCIS, 77 Baiziwan Nan Er Lu, Chaoyang District (8771 7171) 朝阳区百子湾南二路77号
YCIS Beijing Chinese New Year Temple Fair
Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s annual temple fair stars roaming performers, traditional crafts, and an authentic atmosphere.
Free. 8.30am-2pm. YCIS Beijing, Honglingjin Park, 5 Houbalizhuang, Chaoyang District (8583 3731) 朝阳区后八里庄5号红领巾公园
Traditional Temple Fairs:
Changdian Temple Fair
The Changdian Temple Fair is one of Beijing’s most popular temple fairs, featuring lion dancers and a set of big drums for visitors to beat on. Be warned: Changdian is very crowded!
RMB 10. 9am-4.30pm. Changdian Temple Fair, Taoranting Park, 19 Taiping Jie, Xuanwu District (6358 8801) 厂甸庙会，宣武区太平街19号陶然亭公园
Chaoyang Park Temple Fair
Chaoyang Park is traditionally considered the “international” temple fair, with contributions from several countries. This year, nearly 100 artists from the UK, France, Holland, and Russia will participate in a parade taking place at 11am on every day of the festival.
RMB 10. Chaoyang Park, 1 Chaoyang Gongyuan Nanlu, Chaoyang District (6506 5409) 朝阳公园，朝阳区朝阳公园南路1号
Daguanyuan Temple Fair
This temple fair takes over parts of Beijing Grand View Garden (Daguanyuan), with drummers, costumed parades, acrobatics and other ethnic and cultural performances.
RMB 40 (at the door), RMB 30 (presale). 10am-5pm. 12 Nancaiyuan Xijie, Xuanwu District (6354 4993) 大观园庙会，宣武区南菜园西街12号大观园
Ditan Park Temple Fair
Another one of Beijing’s busiest temple fairs, Ditan Park is the site of an altar where sacrifices were made to the earth god. The area around the altar is the site of many performances, shopping stalls, and food vendors. This one is also crowded, so be prepared. IC cards can be used at the entrance.
RMB 10. 9am-5pm. Ditan Park, Andingmenwai Dajie, Dongcheng District (6421 4657) 地坛公园庙会，东城区安定门外大街
Dongyue Temple Fair
Dongyue is a very traditional Taoist temple with food stalls, cultural exhibitions, and ethnic performances. It’s one of the better temple fairs to take kids, with folk crafts, toys, puppet shows, lion dancing, and more.
RMB 10 (at the door), RMB 8 (presale). 8.30am-4.30pm. 141 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District (6551 0151) 东岳庙庙会，朝阳区朝阳门外大街141号
Longtan Hu Temple Fair
Fair events here are very similar to those in Ditan Park. There are various competitions where visitors can join in arm-wrestling, rock climbing and chess playing. There will be IC card readers at the entrance.
RMB 10. 9am-4pm. Longtan Hu Park, Zuoanmennei Dajie, Chongwen District (6718 6358) 龙潭湖庙会，崇文区左安门内大街龙潭湖公园
Shijing Shan Temple Fair
Unlike other temple fairs, Shijingshan veers away from the traditional to feature exotic smells, sights, tastes, and sounds. As a result, this fair is said to attract many foreigners. Judge wisely whether this is your cup of tea.
RMB 10. 9am-4.30pm. 25 Shijingshan Lu, Shijingshan District (6886 2547) 石景山游乐园庙会，石景山区石景山路25号
Yuanmingyuan Royal Temple Fair
In the Qing dynasty, this old summer palace was once among the most bustling places during Spring Festival. People are still divided over whether Yuanmingyuan should host temple fairs or be left alone as a “shameful reminder of a ‘weak’ late Qing Dynasty.” Either way, there will be showcases of the Qing court’s customs, cuisine, leisure activities, academics, and more.
RMB 10. 8.30am-5pm. 28 Qinghua Xilu, Haidian District (6256 3659) 圆明园庙会, 海淀区清华西28号圆明园