Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Foreigners experiencing traditional Chinese festival cutlure

After taking on an imperial robe and sitting on an imperial chair, Basil Bernstein asked his Chinese friend to take a picture of him at a temple fair.

"My wife said I am very handsome when wearing the imperial robe," said Bernstein, a free-lance American photographer, at a Spring Festival temple fair in southwest China's Chongqing.

The temple fairs, or "Miaohui" in Chinese, are usually held during China's Spring Festival holidays to celebrate the arrival of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which fell on Feb. 18 this year.

Held at ancient temples, these colorfully decorated fairs usually feature folk arts performances, including stilt-walking and dragon and lion dances, and sale of snacks.

Two years ago, Bernstein attended a temple fair in Beijing and has since been deeply attracted by this centuries-old event.

"To me, everything at temple fairs is wonderful," said Bernstein, who had visited three temple fairs in the past two days in Chongqing.

Kimura Takahiko, a Japanese businessman in Chongqing, said temple fairs are like an expo of Chinese culture and a channel for foreigners to get to know Chinese.

He has joined Spring Festival celebrations in China for four consecutive years.

His impression of Chinese temple fairs: happy people in colorful clothes, some holding the red Chinese knots or blowing small windmills and people.

Kimura himself was dressed in red attire of traditional Chinese style.

As part of Spring Festival celebrations, most Chinese people stayed at home on New Year's eve to watch a grand gala broadcast live on China's Central Television.

John Reilly, a British engineer with Nanjing MG Motor Company in east China's Jiangsu Province, watched the live broadcast although he had difficulty understanding some of performances.

The gala ran well beyond the midnight to witness the arrival of the Chinese New Year's Day.

"I could not understand the contents of the songs, but I think the songs are wonderful," he said.

But he said he could not understand the cross-talks and short plays, two traditional Chinese comic forms featured by satirical and punny dialogues or humoristic performances by one or more actors.

"When the audience burst out laughing, I did not know why they laughed," said Reilly.

Reilly said his company had offered him a feast for the Spring Festival. He also received feast invitations from his Chinese colleagues.

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