So I had a few choices of what to do for New Year's Eve.
First, Lucy invited me to go with her and her friends to Suzhou. Since I just went to Suzhou last weekend I decided not to. Zeno also invited me to go with her to her church for a choir performance. I'm not a religious person and thought I might feel a little awkward so I declined. I was invited on facebook to go to the "I <3 Shanghai" bar for their "Halloween on New Year's Eve" party, but I went there for the real Halloween and only have my jester costume. I also wanted to do something more traditionally Chinese since I won't be in China for the Chinese New Year (January 26th...just FYI).
I took a look on the City Weekend website and found out about the Longhua Temple. It's the largest and most complete Buddhist temple in Shanghai and is famous for it's 3-ton bell. The tradition on New Year's Even is to ring the bell 108 times (108 is a really luck number in Chinese). They also have a celebration with fireworks and a dragon dance and such. So I decided to go there.
Zeno warned me that it was going to be super crowded so I decided not to bring my bag. In big crowds it always seems to get caught in a wave of people. I'm glad I decided not to bring it! And not because of the temple! I headed out early so I decided to get off the subway at Nanjing Road East since I still have not been to the Bund. (I swear I am going to be like those people that live in NYC all their life and never go to the Statue of Liberty.) I ended up walking the wrong way and ended up at People's Square. It was CROWDED. Like...if I had seen that my first week here in Shanghai I think I would have run in the other direction screaming and crying. No exaggeration at all...if I had stopped walking forward I would have been lifted by the sheer force of people. In comparison, the temple was deserted. I'm still glad I stopped there though. It was kind of fun to see the crowds there. There were tons of young people buying glowing horns or fuzzy hat that looked like cow heads. All celebrating the Chinese year of the Ox.
I took the subway from People's Square to a road near the temple, then took a short taxi ride to the entrance. The first thing I saw was this lovely lit up pagoda outside the entrance.
There were already fireworks going off. There were tons of scalpers (or "huangniu" if you remember from my post about the Jazz concert ;-) ) selling tickets. I got a bit worried since I didn't know you needed tickets. I thought I was going to have to deal with one of the scalpers and get some outrageous price for being a foreigner. Then I walked past the ticket booth. Haha.
I really want to go back to the temple during the day and during a normal weekend when I am sure it will be less crowded (although it wasn't as bad as I feared and no where NEAR as bad as People's Square). The temple was beautiful. There was one hall that was full of hundreds of small golden Buddhas. I didn't see any signs saying pictures weren't allowed but just to be safe I didn't take any inside of the buildings. Besides there were people praying and I thought it would be rude. If I go back and find I can take pictures I will to show you guys because the insides of the temples were lovely. There were giant braziers filled with burning incense. My jacket still smells like incense and firecracker smoke. I love this picture.
After I walked all around the temple I went back to the front where the main event was happening. They announced the 108 people who were going to ring the bell before midnight. The video screen at the bottom right of the next picture shows the procession of people ringing the bell.
After midnight struck I turned around a snapped this picture of the fireworks going off right outside the temple.
Then there was a dragon dance. This was the best picture I could get. I took some video too that I will put up later.
When I walked out of the temple there were people burning incense in little fires all over the place.
There were also people writing wishes onto ribbons and either tying them on to or throwing them into a tree outside the temple. I tried to take a picture of it but they all came out looking like fuzzy orange blobs.
There were an insane amount of firecrackers going off. At one point a wave of smoke that looked like a scene out of the movie "The Fog" rolled over and past me. I had to breath through my scarf until the air cleared and I could see again. Take a look at this picture. All that red stuff you see is the remains of firecrackers.
After all that I wandered a bit looking for a cab. I figured it would take a very long time so I was surprised when it only took me about ten minutes to get one. I happened to be walking past an apartment complex and some guy was getting out. I hovered around the cab until he paid and I snatched the cab before someone else could come along.
When I got back to school the gate was locked and the guard was asleep. Usually just the latch is locked and I figured out long ago how to reach my arm through the bars and undo it. This time there was a chain around the door and it was padlocked. The guard was asleep in the guard shack with the door closed. I felt bad but I was cold and tired and I had no choice but to slam/shake the gate over and over again until he woke up and let me in. I wished him a happy new year "xinnian kuaile!" and then went back to my apartment.
And that was my semi exciting New Year's Eve!
Just a side note. I think this is funny and I want to share it with all of you. By the time I finish explaining it, it won't be funny anymore. Oh well. The Chinese year of 2009 is the year of the Ox. Ox in Chinese is pronounced "niu" which sounds like "new". Sooo...I can say to people..."Happy Niu Year!".
I amuse myself.
Happy Niu Year!