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Come to the fair for a taste of history and culture

THE popular Sanlin temple fair dates back more than 350 years. It is colorful, noisy and packed with cultural and historical delights. Tan Weiyun joins the parade

Traditional floats drum their way through excited crowds. Old women let their needles and thread dart between silk cloths. Folk art troupes perform dragon and lion dances accompanied by deafening gongs and cymbals. Happy throngs jostle each other along a brightly decorated street.

The fair is in full swing these days in Sanlin Town in Pudong New Area at an 890-year-old temple. The fair, a real eye-opener even for Shanghai locals, runs till next Monday.

The Shengtang (literally "the sacred hall" in Chinese) Temple Fair in and around the Chongfu Temple includes parades, folk art performances, cultural activities such as the Sanlin embroidery art show and the Sanlin porcelain-carving craft show, traditional Taoist ceremonies and a food festival offering traditional Chinese snacks for gourmets.

The fair dates back more than 350 years. It is held in the middle of the third month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The temple is the Chongfu Temple, almost 890 years old, and located in the south of Pudong.

"The temple fair started in the 17th century and was held annually to the late 1980s in the town," says Wang Zhuren, the director of the Sanlin Town Cultural Service Center.

The fair stopped in the middle of 1980s because of a lack of finance. "But it was brought back last year and, to our surprise, attracted over 220,000 visitors over its three days," the director says. "This year's temple fair has been expanded to Gaoqing and Yangnan roads, to accommodate more tourists."

One highlight of the gala is the parade of floats, which includes almost 1,500 performers from 46 art troupes, and the dragon dance features a 100-meter Chinese dragon, Shanghai's longest dragon, accompanied by folk dances and songs.

The traditional ceremonies like ringing the large big bronze bell or dotting the dragon's eyes with black ink were all to do with wishing for a good harvest and a successful year.

As the colorful floats pass by, visitors can look out for wheelbarrow performances and join the cheerful yangko and dalianxiang (a traditional local dance) lines.

In the middle of the parade, there is a small group of Taoists from the Chongfu Temple beating gongs and cymbals. Some are wearing costumes from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), some hold umbrellas and others wave Taoist flags. Highly ranked masters are dressed in silk costumes embroidered with colorful patterns featuring giant pythons, symbols of power in Chinese culture. The procession is accompanied by Taoist musicians playing bamboo flutes and suona (a woodwind instrument).

A Sanlin embroidery art show and a Sanlin porcelain-carving craft show, two art forms that have been listed as the district's intangible cultural heritages, are also open during the fair.

"We find many Shanghai people still love local time-honored products, though their packaging might look not as attractive as the foreign 'bling-bling' brands," Wang says.

At last year's temple fair, the Sanlin pickles were sold out within hours and the 60-yuan (US$8.8) Tang jackets (traditional Chinese garments) made of homespun clothes were extremely popular among visitors.

This year Gaoqiao Town pancakes and Qian Wanlong soybeans, two nationally ranked intangible cultural heritages, will make their appearances at the temple fair for the first time to satisfy the taste buds of discerning?visitors.

Date: through April 13

Admission: free

Address: 555 Yangnan Rd

You can drive via Dapu Road Tunnel-Changqing Rd-Chengshan Rd-Shangnan Rd-Gaoqing Rd-Yangnan Rd


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