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Temple Fairs Mark New Year

One of the best places to experience a traditional Chinese celebration of the New Year is at a temple fair.

In Beijing's Ditan Park. The activities are an old imperial ritual from the time of the Qing Dynasty. The emperor is making a sacrificial offering to the god of the earth.

It was the opening act in a daylong celebration of Chinese New Year.

Re-staging events have become part of the new style Temple Fair. They give the people a chance to see how the emperors live, what their courts looked like, and how they did things hundreds of years ago.

For many people, the best way to celebrate Chinese New Year and get a flavor of local customs and traditions is to visit time-honored temple fairs like this one in Beijing.

Red is the most popular color of the Spring Festival. Wednesday's celebration was the first day of the Chinese Year of the Rooster.

The visitors are tossing the coins to bring good luck for the New Year.

Another tradition of the Temple Fair is the handicrafts that symbolize happiness and wealth.

Lin Shuying, a tourist, said, "I came from Guangdong with my family, just to see how the locals spend their new year. The things here are very rare in the south of China. I like it here."

Children are perhaps the happiest visitors at the fair. Lots of these toys can't be found in ordinary shops are more.

You won't go hungry either. The snacks are all part of the tradition. You can sample all the flavors of old Beijing.

Gao Jianhua, Beijing resident, said, "This is tea soup, very rare now in Beijing. This morning, I didn't have breakfast. I came here early to have some of this."

But it's not only the flavors of Beijing on display. Lots of other areas from around China are represented at the fair.

US Visitor, said, "It's so interesting. I am looking forward to trying more good food. Great."

They might be good. But unfortunately, after the fair, these snacks will disappear.

Zhang Chunbo, vendor, said, "This is called guanchang. It's made of sweet potato fried with pork fat. The older people like it a lot. We like selling it at the fair. And you can't find snacks like this on the street."

Beijing is host to 11 temple fairs this New Year. Organizers hope to see big crowds over the next week. But it's a tradition that is changing too. There seem to be fewer performances of folk art. And these toys are the same you will find anywhere. What was once an imperial and folk tradition is fast acquiring a very commercial flavor.

(CCTV.com February 10, 2005)

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