Spending Spring Festival like real Beijingers

Over the holiday, China.org.cn recruited seven Chinese people and seven foreigners, paired them into seven teams, and sent them to around Beijing to seek out authentic Spring Festival experiences. The idea was that the Chinese would explain the background of the festival to the foreigners although occasionally it turned out the other way round. Everyone filmed or wrote up their stories after the trip.

Thousands welcome return of emperor

Thousands of people gathered at Beijing's Temple of Heaven on a chilly winter afternoon to watch the park's latest effort to create a living past for one of China's most spectacular sights. Twice a day during the Spring Festival New Year's holiday, a modern-day surrogate for the Qing dynasty emperor (Qianlong is perhaps the best known outside China) marches solemnly with his guards along a portion of the broad Danbi bridge that links the northern and southern parts of the huge temple complex.

Prayers for good harvests

The Heavenly Worship Ceremony takes you back hundreds – even thousands – of years. The one that is particularly relevant to me is now conducted by actors in the 21st century to celebrate the Chinese New Year and pray for the prosperity of the whole nation. The ceremony takes place in Tiantan Park (Temple of Heaven). Hundred-year-old trees grow tall and thick, their branches black and sharp against the sky. You pass from them into a traditional Chinese cloister which extends as far as the eye can see, losing itself in the distant shadows. The beauty and variety of the stall-holders crying their wares, the bolang drums of the sellers of Spring Festival goods, and the loud laughter from the children, all clash and blend with each other in perfect harmony, like a Peking Opera.