With colourful flags dressing up the withered trees along Beijing's streets and residents ready to visit fairs at various temples, China's ancient capital gears up for the year's most important traditional celebration - the Spring Festival.
All of the city's nine temple fairs have wrapped up their preparations and vow to maintain their leading position in providing entertainment with local and traditional flavour during the festival, said Ma Xin, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Cultural Bureau.
"People should enjoy their time at the fairs, having things to watch, to play and to buy," he said.
The temple fairs are tailored to meet individual tastes.
For example, while the Dongyuemiao Temple Fair is devoted to re-creating the customs and conditions of old Beijing, the Hongluosi Temple Fair will attract those interested in playing easy games, such as guessing lantern riddles, in beautiful natural settings.
Besides the temple fairs, the city will stage 106 performances ranging from singing, dancing, drama, symphonies, traditional Chinese operas and acrobatics to puppet plays.
"The Spring Festival holiday has become the busiest and most important performing season of the art groups in Beijing," said Ma.
"And some first-rate performers from Russia, Ireland, and the United States will help make the performances even more perfect."
Different from previous years, the Bureau will set up a new performing theatre, Yanshanqing, early next month designed to bring happiness to the city's suburban residents.
According to Wang Liya, director of the Bureau's Art Division, the Yanshanqing Performing Theatre is aimed at helping suburban Beijing catch up with the city's downtown areas in terms of the quality cultural offerings.
The first programme for the new theatre consists primarily of traditional Chinese operas, including the Peking Opera, which is popular in suburban Beijing.
"We shall also organize other Beijing-based art groups to bring their best performances to our farmers," said Wang.
In addition, large-scale mass entertainment activities focused on traditional events like the Yangko competition or on tours of modern parks will add to the heated festival atmosphere of suburban Beijing until the end of February.
If those activities are unappealing, the Spring Festival can be spent more quietly in various local libraries, which will operate as usual during the holiday.
( China Daily January 31, 2002)