Beijing's best Spring Festival temple fairs

The biggest and best of the city's Spring Festival fairs


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.

Ditan Park 地坛公园

Ditan Park 地坛公园

One of Beijing's biggest temple fairs and now in its 33rd year, the Ditan Temple Fair has been around since 1985 and is a regular hit with the locals. Inside the park is the Altar of Earth and plenty else to catch your eye.

Welcoming you to the party will be the various Chinese zodiac characters with the Rat taking centre stage this year, naturally. See if you can spot the Dai people's 'peacock dance' amongst a host of dances from all over China. You'll be able to see exhibitions that cover the life and customs of Beijingers through the centuries as well as the different ways that Spring Festival is now celebrated all over the world. Pick up some (supposedly) antique Chinese handicrafts from stalls and if you get there at 10am, glimpse a re-enactment of the imperial family's traditional prayers for good harvests originally held here in the summer months. If that's not enough, there will also be plenty of other performances including comedy crosstalk, traditional Tibetan folk dances and ancient magic and ventriloquism.

Hungry? Pick up dry-fried beans, jiaoquan (fried dough sticks that taste great dipped into doujiang – thick soy milk) as well niangao (New Year cakes).

Ditan Park Andingmen Wai Dajie, Dongcheng district. Open 8:30am-5pm. 5RMB. From Saturday 25 to Wednesday 29.

Longtan Park 龙潭公园

Longtan Park 龙潭公园

Located in Dongcheng district, this fair doesn't actually feature any temples, although the park does boast some tasteful Qing-style buildings and will be decked out in dragon-related regalia. Now in its 37th year, the Longtan Spring Festival Cultural Temple Fair features a mix of ice and snow sports alongside traditional activities. The fair also showcases the regional culture, with products and goods from all over the region. It's set to include dancing and a host of colourful floats that will meander their way through the park. There will be various activities that will keep you out playing in the cold, such as the snow park. You can also watch wrestling, judo, taekwondo and free combat performances from professional sports stars.

And before you go, touch the giant character for wealth (fu) made up of miniature dragon figurines while wearing a blindfold and you'll bag yourself some prosperity for the coming year too.

Longtan Park 8 Longtanhu Lu, Dongcheng district. Open 8:30am-5pm. Sat 25-Wed 29. 10RMB.

Grand View Garden 大观园

Grand View Garden 大观园

For a slightly different kind of temple fair, check out Grand View Garden's 25th temple fair themed after one of China's four great classical novels, Dream of the Red Chamber. Discover your usual temple fair fares and performances but also learn something about Chinese history and the story behind Grand View Garden, one of the locations featured in the classic novel.

Head there before 10am to avoid the crowds.

Grand View Garden 12 Nancaiyuan Xijie, Xicheng district. Open 8.30am-5pm. 10RMB. Sat 25-Wed 29.

Fengqing Festival (Beijing Chaoyang International Spring Carnival)

Fengqing Festival (Beijing Chaoyang International Spring Carnival)

While this fair doesn't exactly involve temples, it is still worth a trip as the fair only happens during the Chinese New Year. It's also a hit with the locals because of its line-up of traditional Chinese performances alongside international events featuring various customs and specialities. Now in its 17th year, the popular annual festival's theme this year is based on dances and performances inspired by the Silk Road. More photos here.  

Chaoyang Park 1 Chaoyang Gongyuan Nan Lu, Chaoyang district. Jan 25-30. 9am-5pm. 5RMB.

Fenghuangling Nature Park 凤凰岭自然风景公园

Fenghuangling Nature Park 凤凰岭自然风景公园

Competing with Beijing's temple fairs must be a tough business, so it should come as no surprise that some temple fairs are trying to up their 'fair' game. There's a lot to unbox at this particular temple fair event, and we're not sure where to start. Want a temple fair with a view? Then check out this mountain park. Can't take being away from modern society for too long? No worries, there's a science exhibition here, too. Looking for a snow adventure? Fenghuangling Park again. Want to discover more Chinese culture by tasting traditional snacks and watching traditional Chinese performances? It's a temple fair, so it's definitely got that too. It's their eighth year holding this temple fair and is also a popular one in the city, so they've got to be doing something right.

Fenghuangling Park 19 Fenghuangling Lu, Sujiatuo Zhen, Haidian district. Sat 25-Thu 30. Open 8am-5pm. 25RMB.

Shijingshan Amusement Park

Shijingshan Amusement Park

Enjoy a mixture of traditional Chinese culture and modern Western influences at the New Year fair hosted by Beijing's answer to Disneyland. There will be a Spring Festival-themed light show, National Day 70th anniversary floats, display of traditional craftsmanship, folk artistic performances, wrestling, lion dances and international performances. 

Shijingshan Amusement Park 25 Shijingshan Lu, Shijingshan district. January 25-31. 9am-6pm.10RMB.

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