This year, I decided to go to Chaoyang Park’s Spring Festival Temple Fair. What I noticed, and what made me think was also true about last year’s temple fair at Ditan Park, was that there were a hell of a lot more places to spend my money than to watch traditional Chinese New Year performances. Where to start? When I first walked in, there was an area set apart for the “Snow Festival” section of the park. An area where you could ice skate, sit on those chairs that slide on the ice, basically forget that you were living in a city (Beijing) that is facing its first snow-less winter in the 60 years they’ve been keeping records. Am I bitter? Maybe a little.
As my boyfriend and I walked through the path winding around the vast space which Chaoyang Park inhabits, we passed tent after tent of vendors selling everything from windup toy cars to wooden African masks. The windup toy cars were selling for an unbelievable 30-60RMB (more than $4-$9USD, and the designs, such as racing stripes, were stickers, not painted)!!! If I were in the US, I wouldn’t be surprised. Obviously, those toys were made in China to be ridiculously overpriced and sold in the States. However, what bothered me was that I was IN CHINA and it was being sold for more than twenty times what it probably cost to make in the same country. There were vendors selling “specialty snacks,” but probably not anything you couldn’t find out on the streets of Beijing or in small shops.
My friend asked me to take pictures of Chinese New Year in Beijing. I didn’t get any pictures of lion dances, people playing with firecrackers (um, by the way, super dangerous. Two guys died last week in Beijing playing with firecrackers, and almost 6,000 fires were caused nationwide in a little more than a day because of firecrackers), or lai see (Cantonese for red envelopes). What I did get was a picture of the midway at the temple fair that I attended. Yet another place for me to spend my money.
Despite my ranting about how the fair was commercialized and didn’t have the elements of traditional customs that I was expecting, I have to admit that I did spend 40RMB playing the midway games. Out of which my only prize was a small plush car meant to hold my cell phone. What? I’m American, I live to enjoy the moment =) And if that means wasting money tossing a fake coin into the exact middle of a tiny circle, so be it.