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Miaofeng Mountain temple fair: a sip for luck


Beijing Miaofeng Mountain Temple Fair

Beijing, May 22 -- The ongoing Miaofeng Mountain temple fair lasts until May 28, and up to then, visitors can eat lucky rice porridge for free.

Every year from April 1 to 15 in the lunar calendar, Miaofeng Mountain holds a spring incense temple fair. Pilgrims from different areas form many teams, called Xiang Hui, to perform for the goddess Bi Xia Yuan Jun.

According to the management committee that runs the fair (there haven't been monks since before the temple was rebuilt in the 1980s), the reason for holding the temple fair now, instead of during the Spring Festival as most temples do, is because Miaofeng Mountain is a place connected to three belief systems: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. April 8 in the lunar calendar is Buddha's birthday, and April 15 is Bi Xia Yuan Jun's.

Bi Xia Yuan Jun, also called Old Niang Niang, was the daughter of the god of Tai Mountain, Dong Yue Da Di, to whom the Taoist Dongyue Temple in Chaoyang district is dedicated, according to folk expert Wang Zuoji, author of The History of Beijing's Xiang Hui.

The Xiang Hui are all volunteers who perform in an assortment of recitals, including a Lion Dance, the Five Tiger Stick Dance - where six to nine performers, five of which are pretending to be bad "tigers," beat each other with sticks - and a Flower Drum dance, where a man with a gong and a woman with a flower drum sing and dance together. 

According to Wang Zuoji, this tradition can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty. Whenever the festival took place, most houses in Beijing would be empty, because everyone had gone to Miaofeng Mountain. Pilgrims also came in from Tianjin, the provinces of Zhejiang and Liaoning, and more.

Concerned that the pilgrims would become hungry and thirsty on the way, tea and porridge stands were set up every 10 miles on the three main paths to the temple. These were all free, provided by rich pilgrims as zuo gong de, or "good deeds." All the servers were volunteers as well, and when meeting other pilgrims, they would exchange a greeting of "You are devout."

According to Wang Defeng, a Taoist who has lived on the mountain for 24 years, pilgrims donated all the rice and mantou (steamed bread) for this year's festival, for a total of more than 25,000 kilograms of mantou and 2,500 kilograms of rice.

Most donors are businessmen. Five Zhejiang brothers, for example, donated enough rice to last the duration of the festival for several years. "No give, no get," Wang Defeng explained of donors' belief that these devotions will be returned to them in the form of good luck.

And speaking of luck, Wang Zuoji told Lifestyle that the rice porridge also brings good fortune to people. "There is even a song to sing when drinking it." He provided an excerpt of the lyrics:

First bowl, kowtow to the god.
Second bowl, pray for myself.
Third bowl, bring luck back.


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