新年快乐 (xīnnián kuàilè): Part II

We last left off with yesterday’s post about the big lead up to Spring Festival (better known as Chinese New Year), our adventures around town, my first squat toilet experience and an offering of blessings of love, hope and good fortune for 2016.  According to the Chinese calendar, it is year 4714 and the Year of the (fire) Monkey.  Just like any culture and religion, there are many symbolic things to do, food to consume and rituals to perform.  With that being said, Paul and I were extremely excited to take in as much as we could and to fully immerse ourselves in the moment.

Although I was raised Lutheran and Paul Catholic, we decided to fully take advantage of our time here and go to Longhua Buddhist Temple for a deeply spiritual experience.  It appeared that we, along with 2 other people, were among the only “non-local looking” people.  Since it’s a place of worship, and our background knowledge of Buddhism is pretty much next to nothing, we were mindful to be respectful and not invasive.  Although others walked in front of those praying and bowing, it just didn’t feel right to walk between a person doing something so deeply spiritual and the Buddhistic statue they were paying their respects to.  At times, it felt like we were intruding on something very special.  And we were.


Can you see one of the many Monks that live there?

To walk amongst the grounds of a temple that was first built in 247 AD was intense and beautiful. To smell the incense smolder, seeing people praying from about age 3 to “Holy cow! How can you possibly still be alive?”, to seeing so many magnificent statues gilded in gold was truly and deeply spiritual and left me verklempt a few times. The highlight of the night, and of our stay here so far, has been the good fortune that we were able to participate in. Just before midnight, 108 people get to ring in the new year by striking this HUGE bell…

…as others outside the bell area bow to a particular statue 108 times, then to the four cardinal directions…

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Next to seeing Pope Benedict XVI (in 2007), His Holiness The Dalai Lama (in 2008) and Jane Goodall (in 2012) speak, this ranks up there in those soul-grasping moments in life. I guess my only regret of the night is not having deeper, previous knowledge of Buddhism to fully comprehend what all I was seeing and experiencing, but we’ve still got time to return. Until then, we wish you all a very happy new year!

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