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January 1, 2018

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Bells and tills ring in a prosperous new year

SHANGHAI was hit by heavy air pollution on New Year’s Eve, but that did not stop revelers from attending countdown activities and other celebrations.

Jade Buddha Temple and Longhua Temple held traditional bell-tolling ceremonies to welcome the New Year. An estimated 4,000 people attended a countdown party in downtown Xintiandi shopping area.

However, the city suffered poor air quality on the last day of 2017. The environment authority triggered a blue-color air pollution alarm on Saturday. The air quality index reached 280 at 8pm on New Year’s Eve, with the tiny hazardous to health PM2.5 particles being the major pollutant.

According to Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center, air pollutants carried into the city by a cold front from the north were the major cause of the pollution. The situation is expected to ease from today.

The pollution affected visibility at some tourism spots — including the Bund, which nevertheless was one of the most popular places for welcoming in the new year.

From 4pm onwards people began pouring into the Bund area, many of them visitors from out of town.

Pauline Balder, from the Netherlands, came to Shanghai with her parents and brothers. The 18-year-old is now studying in Beijing.

“Chinese is hard to learn, but China is an interesting country as different cities have different characters. My New Year wish is to enter a good university when I go back to the Netherlands,” Balder said.

Jadzia Najder from Poland arrived in Shanghai a few days ago to visit a friend.

“I was told the Bund is a landmark, so decided to come here for the celebration,” she said. “Despite the weather, this is still a charming spot. As for my New Year wish, I want to build a stronger personality.”

Traffic police and armed police were placed at all crossroads along the Bund. Crowd restriction measures were held at some intersections to control the number of people reaching the Bund from Nanjing Road E.

At Xintiandi, one of the most visited shopping blocks in the city, festive lights and big crowds marked another New Year’s Eve. About 4,000 people gathered at Xintiandi’s Taipinghu Park for the only public countdown party in the city center.

Dina, 27, from Russia who currently lives in Qingdao in east China, came to Shanghai to celebrate. “I wish for happiness, health and a husband for the new year,” she laughed.

Some landmark shopping malls held sales promotions on the last day of 2017 that ran as late as 2am today. Pudong’s No.1 Yaohan Department Store had been packed with customers since yesterday afternoon.

Shanghai’s Jade Buddha Temple held a charity party to raise donations for children in China’s remote regions as well as for local poor families.

A charity library campaign launched by the temple in 2011 has helped build 307 schools and libraries in southwest Guizhou and Yunnan provinces.

Thanks to the campaign, over 70,000 children from remote villages managed to study in the classrooms, according to the temple, which also donated 1 million yuan (US$153,700) at the party to the Shanghai Charity Foundation yesterday to help Shanghai families in need.

A traditional bell-tolling ceremony was held at midnight in the temple. Abbot Juexing and other senior monks struck the bell 108 times to wish a peaceful and prosperous new year.

Olaf Groenewegen, a teacher from the Netherlands, who has just spent his first year in Shanghai, said everything in the city is good enough for him. “I just wish I can contribute more to the city in the new year.”

Longhua Temple in Xuhui District hosted its traditional bell-tolling ceremony at midnight on the New Year’s Eve. A bronze bell at the temple was struck 108 times to absolve sins and bring good luck at the temple. It is believed that striking bells 108 times can eliminate grief and sorrow. Visitors ate noodles, watched folk culture performances and wrote their wishes for the new year on a wall, praying for good luck in 2018.

About 100 overseas tourists attended the ceremony. Cathy Jackson-Read from England was one of them. She has lived in Shanghai for two months.

“I see many people praying and lighting incense, which is a very traditional and interesting,” she said. Her new year wish is “to speak better Chinese.”

Lily Scott, also from England, who was visiting the temple with her husband, said the folk performance was “really good.”


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