Longhua fair adds `lustre to the dragon'
IN the 400-year history of the temple fairs held in the Longhua Temple, only on two occasions has it been halted - once during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) and the second time was last year during the SARS outbreak.
Preparations have been made this year for a grand re-opening when the fair opens on April 23 and runs to May 7.
The site chosen for the temple was named Longhua (meaning "lustre of the dragon") because a dragon once appeared there, or so the local legend goes.
The Longhua Temple fair began during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and has long been popular with local residents. It is held on the third day of the third month of the Lunar Calendar, supposedly the day dragons visit the temple to help grant people's wishes.
The ancient octagonal tower of the temple, 40 metres high with seven storeys, will be garlanded with two huge dragons made of plants and flowers embodying good fortune, such as Chinese roses representing prosperity and olive branches standing for peace. The dragons are to be floodlit in the evenings, adding to their magnificence.
As this year is thought to be the 1,762nd anniversary of the temple's construction, at 10:30am on April 23, 1,762 balloons will be launched skywards during the opening ceremony. Shanghai residents were given a hotline to call so that their wishes for the future could be written on pieces of paper and tied to each balloon.
The temple fair organizers have also co-operated with neighbouring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces to build models of nearby famous watertowns such as Zhouzhuang, Zhujiajiao and Wuzhen.
Visitors to the fair will be able to take part in a variety of games related to folk customs, for instance, the competition to fetch water from the "dragon-eye well".
The well was dug especially for the fair in memory of a time long ago when the temple was said to have had a real magic well - if people got water from it, they would be blessed.
The new Hualin Museum and Hualin Chinese Art Institute will stay open during the fair to allow visitors to view paintings and calligraphy works by renowned master monks, carvings and precious Buddhist relics.
A folk art exhibition will also be held in the temple to display root-carving works. Artists at the fair will give visitors hands-on teaching in making handicrafts.
In the small stores around the temple, special souvenirs will be available and a book fair with the theme, "The flavour of Shanghai", will be attended by well-known writers who will give a seminar on the topic.
The temple fair is not confined to the interior of the temple only - the nearby Longhua Martyrs Cemetery will be open to receive visitors who want to commemorate the dead heroes there and who may also stay to admire the sculptures and the flourishing peachblossoms.
During the two-week fair, tourists will have the chance to taste vegetarian delicacies, either buying packed dim sum at the stores or having dinner in the restaurant in the Longhua Hotel.
Chefs have prepared various dishes of vegetarian food made from nuts, mushrooms, vegetables, beans and corn.