For a celebration of local culture over Chinese New Year, head to Shanghai for the festivities and fireworks that usher
in the Year of the Monkey.
Words by Brian Johnston
Now that Garuda Indonesia has launched its new Bali–Shanghai route, it shouldn’t only be Hong Kong in your sights for Chinese New Year. Shanghai, too, paints the town red for seasonal celebrations. Dragons and lions prance, woks sizzle with festive treats, lucky red lanterns glow and fireworks light up the already neon-twinkling Shanghai skyline.
This is the best time of year to visit the city’s normally quiet temples, since Spring Festival sees temples bustling with locals hoping for prosperity and good fortune in the coming year. Longhua Temple lies at the heart of the action; its main incense-smoky hall is crammed with worshippers for weeks. On New Year’s Eve (February 8 this year), the temple bell is rung 108 times at midnight, signalling the start of the year – and representing the 108 earthly desires whose abandonment is the Buddhist road to happiness. Other good spots to observe New Year rituals are venerable Jing’an Temple, fresco-rich Baohua Temple, the colourful, statue-filled Jade Buddha Temple, and the kitschy City God Temple, decked out in red for the occasion.
Those who haven’t quite abandoned their earthly desires will find shopping aplenty in Shanghai. The Chinese often buy red clothes, gift items and household goods for New Year, and Nanjing Road – one of China’s most famous shopping boulevards – supplies plenty of temptation. New Year street decorations add to the regular neon glow. Promotions and sales are common at this time of year. For even better bargains, head to Huaihai Central Road, particularly good for silk and fashions. Taikang Road is good for upmarket accessories and artworks, while the Old Town Bazaar is worth plundering for souvenirs and crafts.
Fireworks mark the arrival of Chinese New Year with a bang. They’re launched from barges in the middle of the Huangpu River and from the summits of some skyscrapers, making the 19th-century Bund and adjacent riverside promenades the place to be for the show. The sides of the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower across the river also erupt in fireworks. Finally, the Lantern Festival that marks the end of New Year is best enjoyed in Yu Gardens, where red lanterns hang in the trees. A lantern parade wends its way through surrounding streets.
Happy Year of the Monkey!