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Happy New Year! From Shanghai at Spring Festival of Chinese New Year

2012.01.30

In China, New Year means Spring Festival of Lunar New Year. Normally, countdown events were taken place to cerebrate splendidly in tourist destinations like Waitan or Xintiandi for New Year according to the old-style calendar in Shanghai. Generally, like Japanese custom, people go back to countryside to spend a time with their family for seven days of public holiday for New Year. A day of new moon right before the Usui (one of 24 divisions of the old calendar) is actually the first of January for old calendar, and that fluctuates around 22nd of January to 19th of February of the New (Gregorian) Calendar. 23rd of January was the day for 2012.

Some companies were closed even before Lunar New Year, so it had got few people around our office. Also, many stalls selling fireworks started to appear. The amount people use fireworks and firecrackers is way over normally imagined. They were shot to the sky between crowded buildings and how they reached almost as high as 50 to 60m high-rise apartments was something we never experienced in Japan. Continuous fireworks and firecrackers for the time turning to New Year made spectacle panorama from the place I live.

Since seeing the New Year in Shanghai, I visited a famous temple in Shanghai “Longhua Temple” for the first prayer. Longhua Temple is the oldest temple in Shanghai build by the king of Wu “Sun Quan” in 242 A.D. of Three Kingdoms Period of Chinese history. However, the temple has been rebuilt many times, and the current precincts of the temple had been constructed in the Guangxu year according to Shanghai Tourism Bureau.

An admission fee to enter the temple during Lunar New Year period is 20 yuan that includes a fee for incense given once entering the precincts. Many people buy big incenses for prayer from stalls selling incenses outside of the temple or the precincts. Putting fire on the incense holding between both palms, then making a wish with three bows, and offering the incense, is the formal way for the prayer. The precincts was all smoked up from the flame of incenses that makes me worried not to cause the fire, in the meantime, firefighters stood by at the corner of the precincts.

China is the nation where four main religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, coexist. Currently, religious activities are freely allowed as far as the government accepts. As I observed how Christmas illuminations and New Year prayer to temples interacted, religious activities in the metropolitan like Shanghai have become just annual events that could be seen in Japan as well. By acquainted with the social conditions of such modern China, I would like to keep up thinking about the future between Japan and China through works we would operate this year.

Hajime Takaoki

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