SH Dispatch #23: Chinese Lunar New Year 2013

Being in China, armed with a camera, it is but ridiculous if one doesn’t go out and take pictures. So I did.

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Longhua Temple

Last year, I went around my side of Pudong with my bike. Wanting to do something different this year, I visited Yu Yuan Gardens late evening on new year’s eve, finding only tourists walking around the place, no actual festivities to see. Went home slightly frustrated, and went around the block at about 11PM on the eve. Didn’t find much to photograph. Settled with the fireworks that the people at my apartment complex, which wasn’t such a bad photo-op, despite the smoke, the deafening noise, and the bits of dust and debris that decided to settle on my eyes.

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The decision to visit the Longhua Temple, Shanghai’s largest Buddhist temple, was only made minutes before a 3 hour nap. The place was an 18 minute walk from the closest metro station. However, since the photos posted online shows that you can take photos freely of the place, I just went for it.

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Paid 20RMB for the entrance fee, which comes with small bunch of incense sticks, and got in effortlessly. This was around 9AM, and here’s me thinking this was already a little late.

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Like with most shoots, it took some time for me to get the shots I wanted. I spent so much time on scenes such as the photo above, of people throwing coins, until the eye-to-brain-back-to-trigger-finger system was on track.

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There was this great pit at the entrance of the temple, and merely an hour later, the heat of the thing was already unbearable.

Shots of people worshiping was something I couldn’t wrap my head around earlier, but the volume of people at the temple was growing every few minutes, I don’t think people would mind this bushy-faced-ponytail-dude with the camera as much.

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There were several scenes of note: people rushing towards the snack stands, long lines which appear to lead to the Buddhist restaurant inside the temple, and of course, the scenes of worship inside the pagodas, which I decided not to participate in anymore.

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After about three rounds of circling around the temple, I ended at the first pagoda again, and, at past 10AM in the morning, one would find it difficult to keep the eyes open, and the smoke was almost suffocating.

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After exiting the temple I’ve seen other scenes, some of which I decided to be the better man and NOT take photos: a massive line of people waiting to enter the temple, a family with a member on a wheelchair, and police arguing with them (refusing entrance because of the huge crowd already inside?), people who just did their worship rites outside the area (no time to queue? not enough money to enter?), and life-desperate beggars.

With a bottle of thirst-quenching Gatorade from the nearest convenience store and myself propped on one of their chairs, my knees decided for me that this was the last shoot for the day. Yes, I miss the dragon dances back in the good ol’ Chinatown of Binondo, but I haven’t shot this many photos I’m rather satisfied with for so long.

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View the entire Flickr photoset here.

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