Temple fairs have been a part of daily life in Beijing for hundreds of years, becoming especially popular during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Scattered all over the city so residents could easily make their way to the nearest, some fairs were held as regularly as every fortnight. Between stalls hawking the kind of festive knick-knacks we all find so difficult to resist (especially during the holiday season) were opera and acrobatic troupes, puppet shows and cross-talk (the Qing equivalent of a stand-up comedy act).
The Spring Festival fairs were, of course, a much bigger deal. Back in the day, it was the Changdian fair that raked in the crowds, with long sticks of sweetened hawthorn fruits and visiting opera stars guaranteed.
Today, temple fairs remain the best place to get a real taste of the Chinese New Year
. Most begin on the first day of the lunar calendar (January 25 this year), and last for five to six days. Here are the best of Beijing's outdoor festivals.