Wishing on the New Year

January 23 was the first day of the Chinese New Year. 2012 is the Year of the Dragon.

I had never celebrated the Chinese New Year before. But it seems to be a big deal in South Africa and I’m all about new beginnings these days. So I decided to attend my first-ever Chinese New Year celebration at the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspriut, a small town about an hour northeast of Joburg.

The Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit. I dare you to say that three-times-fast.

According to Wikipedia, the Nan Hua Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Africa. I believe it — the place is huge. The land belongs to the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order of Taiwan. It was donated by the Bronkhorstspruit City Council in 1992 after the Bronkhorstspruit chief executive, Dr. Hennie Senekal, visited Taiwan to promote investment opportunities in Bronkhorstspruit.

The history sounds a little odd, right? Well, so is the temple.

It looks like the temple just dropped out of the sky and landed in the middle of this rural South African field.

Clash of cultures.

I found this sign hilarious. During the time I was inside the temple grounds I saw nearly every one of these rules being broken, many times over. “No Photo’, ‘No Video’, ‘No Meat’, ‘No Picnicking’, and of course ‘Quiet Please’ were the most frequently broken rules. 

I arrived at about 10:30 with my friends Fiver and Stuart. We fought our way through the crowds and immediately encountered an impressive paper dragon procession.

I didn’t have time get my camera ready so I missed the head.

Unfortunately the performances ended just a few minutes after the paper dragon procession. Oops. Guess we should have arrived earlier. But there was still plenty to see.

The imposing temple square is surrounded by a covered walkway, which was lined with stalls selling all kinds of food and Chinese trinkets.

Delicious-looking Chinese chocolate-custard desserts. I really wanted to try one, but I waited too long and by the time I was ready it was too crowded to get anywhere close. I settled for soggy spring rolls.

Corn dogs and mysterious fried bits. Just like at the county fair back home.

Happy waving cats! I think these are actually Japanese, not Chinese. Whatever, I love them.

My favorite stalls were the ones selling assorted Asian-style deadly weapons — swords, daggers, throwing stars, etc. (Remember the sign that said ‘No Weapons’? I guess bringing weapons to a Buddhist temple is against the rules but selling weapons is okay.) These vendors also sold cheap aluminum baseball bats, designed specifically for whacking people over the head. This is South Africa, after all.

As the morning wore on, the crowds intensified.

South Africans really love the Chinese New Year.

After lunch, we broke free of the masses and walked barefoot into the indoor temple, which houses three massive Buddhas. We climbed the stairs to the top floor for a better view.

I initially did not intend to take photos inside the temple. The sign outside the door reiterates that there are no photos allowed. But apparently the Buddhists make an exception for Chinese New Year. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of people taking photos inside, even crowding right up to the offering tables and photographing people as they lit candles. The monks seemed to pay no attention. So I finally took out my camera and snapped a few shots.

I hope I can still attain Nirvana after posting this.

Outside the temple was a place where you could pay 20 rand ($2.50), write a wish on a ribbon, and hang the ribbon on an orange plastic tree. My wish is probably moot after I took photos inside the temple, but I figured it was worth a try anyway.

You’re actually supposed to tie your wish to a Chinese coin and then throw the coin onto the tree. But they ran out of coins. This nice lady pinned my wish to the tree instead.

Here’s what I wrote: ‘Before the end of 2012, I wish to feel truly happy again.’

I think I can do it. Looking at these happy cats will help.

The Nan Hua Temple, while a bit strange, is worth a visit. It’s an easy day trip from either Joburg or Pretoria. The temple also houses a huge seminary that offers meditation retreats. Check it out: http://www.nanhua.co.za/.

Read more about Chinese culture in Joburg here and here.

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69 Comments

  • Reply Allison January 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    The Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit… I don’t think I can say it one time slowly.

    I liked the cat statues

    • Reply 2summers January 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      I don’t think I can either. In fact I know I can’t.

  • Reply Slowvelder January 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    aaah I have wanted to go there forever! I would rather though, go for a retreat than a noisy new year celebration 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 24, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Yes, I think I would too. This was fun but I’d like to check it out when it’s quiet.

  • Reply Jaco January 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Ah! I appear on your blog. In the dragon picture, I am somewhere in the back. I am famous! Hoorah! We will discuss royalties and other technicalities later.

    • Reply 2summers January 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      Is that you in the black shirt and shorts? Congrats on your new-found fame.

  • Reply Jaco January 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Ah! I appear on your blog. In the dragon picture, I am somewhere in the back. I am famous! Hoorah! We will discuss royalties and other technicalities later.

    • Reply 2summers January 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      Is that you in the black shirt and shorts? Congrats on your new-found fame.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough January 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    How interesting to celebrate the Chinese New Year in South Africa. Who would have guessed it would be a big deal there? The photo taken inside the temple was particualrly fascinating for me.

    I, too, hope you are truly happy again before the end of 2012!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough January 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    How interesting to celebrate the Chinese New Year in South Africa. Who would have guessed it would be a big deal there? The photo taken inside the temple was particualrly fascinating for me.

    I, too, hope you are truly happy again before the end of 2012!

    Hugs,
    Kathy

  • Reply landofnams January 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I have a feeling your wish will come true! =)

  • Reply landofnams January 24, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I have a feeling your wish will come true! =)

  • Reply Clare Appleyard (@clareappleyard) January 24, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Great post Heather….and, like Nams, your wish will definitely come true. You’ve got to believe it yourself.
    Love the shots and am amazed at how many people were there. Laughed at your “dropped out the sky” comment – so true. I did a guest blog on just how odd the setting of this place is on a friend’s site last year (http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/2011/04/calm-your-soul-at-a-buddhist-temple-south-africa/)

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Hey Clare, I love your post! Great pics too.

  • Reply Clare Appleyard (@clareappleyard) January 24, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Great post Heather….and, like Nams, your wish will definitely come true. You’ve got to believe it yourself.
    Love the shots and am amazed at how many people were there. Laughed at your “dropped out the sky” comment – so true. I did a guest blog on just how odd the setting of this place is on a friend’s site last year (http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/2011/04/calm-your-soul-at-a-buddhist-temple-south-africa/)

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Hey Clare, I love your post! Great pics too.

  • Reply migrationmark January 25, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Glad to see you were able to celebrate Chinese New Year in South Africa! That temple is huge – and all those rules are great too!

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Thanks Mark. It was really fun.

  • Reply migrationmark January 25, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Glad to see you were able to celebrate Chinese New Year in South Africa! That temple is huge – and all those rules are great too!

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Thanks Mark. It was really fun.

  • Reply thirdeyemom January 25, 2012 at 4:58 am

    It is so interesting that there are Chinatowns all around the world. Who would have thought there would be one in Joburg but then again given China’s enormous population, I guess it makes sense. Wonderful post as always. I love the pictures especially the one of the warning sign. It is so true that people always ignore the rules! I also like your wish. Although I’ve never met you in person, I can tell you are a wonderful person and I wish as well that you can heal and become happy once again this year. A nice wish for yourself and I am sure that Jon would approve. He is most likely smiling down at you now, watching over you with pride and love.

  • Reply thirdeyemom January 25, 2012 at 4:58 am

    It is so interesting that there are Chinatowns all around the world. Who would have thought there would be one in Joburg but then again given China’s enormous population, I guess it makes sense. Wonderful post as always. I love the pictures especially the one of the warning sign. It is so true that people always ignore the rules! I also like your wish. Although I’ve never met you in person, I can tell you are a wonderful person and I wish as well that you can heal and become happy once again this year. A nice wish for yourself and I am sure that Jon would approve. He is most likely smiling down at you now, watching over you with pride and love.

  • Reply eremophila January 25, 2012 at 6:02 am

    The sign really cracks me up! Were the terms and conditions listed in order of priority I wonder?
    Happiness is over-rated. Peacefulness and acceptance are much longer lasting 🙂 These I wish for you♥

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 7:56 am

      Interesting statement. I need to think about that some more. Thank you.

  • Reply eremophila January 25, 2012 at 6:02 am

    The sign really cracks me up! Were the terms and conditions listed in order of priority I wonder?
    Happiness is over-rated. Peacefulness and acceptance are much longer lasting 🙂 These I wish for you♥

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 7:56 am

      Interesting statement. I need to think about that some more. Thank you.

  • Reply jackie hulme January 25, 2012 at 6:03 am

    so envious of your wide angle lens

  • Reply jackie hulme January 25, 2012 at 6:03 am

    so envious of your wide angle lens

  • Reply Jerome West January 25, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Wonderful post Heather, sorry about the crowds because we seemed to have missed each other again. I arrived just before nine and remembering the no cameras in main temple I stood outside but a monk saw me looking in, insisted I go inside. I explained to the monk about my camera, he answered, “Today special day, you go take photo” and when I started taking my shoes off the monk intervened again and said “Special day, leave shoe on, we clean after”.

    It was a treat to stand right in front and take photos of the monks and nuns do their lighting of the candles ceremony with all the chanting. One monk even tried to help me get the best positions for taking photos. This year only comes once every 60 years and I am sure the monks wanted to please everyone so they turned a blind eye to all infringements even the selling of weapons.

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Thanks Jerome. Yes, I could see that the monks didn’t seem to mind the photos at all. I didn’t realize this year was such a special year. (Until now, when I just looked at your blog post. I loved that yellow toy dragon, by the way, but didn’t get a good photo of it.) I guess that’s another reason why it was so crowded.

  • Reply Jerome West January 25, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Wonderful post Heather, sorry about the crowds because we seemed to have missed each other again. I arrived just before nine and remembering the no cameras in main temple I stood outside but a monk saw me looking in, insisted I go inside. I explained to the monk about my camera, he answered, “Today special day, you go take photo” and when I started taking my shoes off the monk intervened again and said “Special day, leave shoe on, we clean after”.

    It was a treat to stand right in front and take photos of the monks and nuns do their lighting of the candles ceremony with all the chanting. One monk even tried to help me get the best positions for taking photos. This year only comes once every 60 years and I am sure the monks wanted to please everyone so they turned a blind eye to all infringements even the selling of weapons.

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Thanks Jerome. Yes, I could see that the monks didn’t seem to mind the photos at all. I didn’t realize this year was such a special year. (Until now, when I just looked at your blog post. I loved that yellow toy dragon, by the way, but didn’t get a good photo of it.) I guess that’s another reason why it was so crowded.

  • Reply katarzynapawelczyk January 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Hey heather I really laughed when I read this. Yeah the temple is a bit odd all the way out there in Bronkies but I guess its no more weird than the huge mosque in Midrand straight from Istanbul. The temple is a completely different place on a normal day and I love going there. There is a peace and quiet that is hard to find.

    In terms of taking pics inside the temple, Sazi and i got there for the main ceremony/blessing in the morning and while it was fine to take photos some people behaved completely inappropriately. I only took a few snaps from where I sat – the guy in front of me (who was not hired by BLIA) kept going behind the altar etc etc. I was ready to tell him off at one point.

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 7:50 am

      Yeah, hopefully some day I’ll go back again without the crowds. And I’d like to go back in the morning or late afternoon when the light is better.

  • Reply katarzynapawelczyk January 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Hey heather I really laughed when I read this. Yeah the temple is a bit odd all the way out there in Bronkies but I guess its no more weird than the huge mosque in Midrand straight from Istanbul. The temple is a completely different place on a normal day and I love going there. There is a peace and quiet that is hard to find.

    In terms of taking pics inside the temple, Sazi and i got there for the main ceremony/blessing in the morning and while it was fine to take photos some people behaved completely inappropriately. I only took a few snaps from where I sat – the guy in front of me (who was not hired by BLIA) kept going behind the altar etc etc. I was ready to tell him off at one point.

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 7:50 am

      Yeah, hopefully some day I’ll go back again without the crowds. And I’d like to go back in the morning or late afternoon when the light is better.

  • Reply miadidthis January 25, 2012 at 8:49 am

    What a melting pot it was indeed. So many strange/colourful people/food/trinkets – but I guess that is what it is all about – acceptance. It really was a fun day. And it was great running into you there.

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

      You too! Quite a coincidence considering the size of the crowd.

      • Reply Jaco January 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

        We always seem to run into each other at crowded places! And yep, that is me with the black shirt.

  • Reply miadidthis January 25, 2012 at 8:49 am

    What a melting pot it was indeed. So many strange/colourful people/food/trinkets – but I guess that is what it is all about – acceptance. It really was a fun day. And it was great running into you there.

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

      You too! Quite a coincidence considering the size of the crowd.

      • Reply Jaco January 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

        We always seem to run into each other at crowded places! And yep, that is me with the black shirt.

  • Reply rossG January 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Loved your post,as usual,you have such a way with words to go with your excellent photo taking ability.May the year of the dragon be a really good year for you and all photographers,especially the Joburg photo walkers.Regards rossG

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks Ross! It’s great to receive such a nice comment from a fellow photowalker. Hope to see you on a future walk.

  • Reply rossG January 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Loved your post,as usual,you have such a way with words to go with your excellent photo taking ability.May the year of the dragon be a really good year for you and all photographers,especially the Joburg photo walkers.Regards rossG

    • Reply 2summers January 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks Ross! It’s great to receive such a nice comment from a fellow photowalker. Hope to see you on a future walk.

  • Reply manuac January 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I really missed a special photowalk! great shoots!

  • Reply manuac January 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I really missed a special photowalk! great shoots!

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish January 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    In my research about Chinese New Year, I never saw a mention of South Africa! Thank you for filling that in. We live too far to see any of the big celebrations, but my friend showed up for work in a beautiful red jacket. Others lit incense and did obeisance to Buddha and the four directions. Very cool to watch. Vivian also informed me of another thing that my research hadn’t brought up, that this year is not only a “dragon” year, but the “power dragon”. As you say, only every sixty years and very special. So we pagans lit some incense and are hoping!

    • Reply 2summers January 26, 2012 at 7:48 am

      Yes. Let’s hope the Power Dragon has great things in store for all of us.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish January 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    In my research about Chinese New Year, I never saw a mention of South Africa! Thank you for filling that in. We live too far to see any of the big celebrations, but my friend showed up for work in a beautiful red jacket. Others lit incense and did obeisance to Buddha and the four directions. Very cool to watch. Vivian also informed me of another thing that my research hadn’t brought up, that this year is not only a “dragon” year, but the “power dragon”. As you say, only every sixty years and very special. So we pagans lit some incense and are hoping!

    • Reply 2summers January 26, 2012 at 7:48 am

      Yes. Let’s hope the Power Dragon has great things in store for all of us.

  • Reply mjray926 January 26, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Wow, these are such great pictures! I have nominated you for the 7×7 link award! Enjoy! 🙂

  • Reply mjray926 January 26, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Wow, these are such great pictures! I have nominated you for the 7×7 link award! Enjoy! 🙂

  • Reply darkjade68 January 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Wow, this is Awesome

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know about The Dark Globe’s “February Shoot Off! Photography Competition that will beginning February 1st, and Running Through February 14th… At The Moment We’re Voting on the Themes for the Photos if you’d like to Partake Here http://thedarkglobe.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/february-shoot-off-help-us-choose-the-theme-s/

    Also, if you’d like to Submit a Photo, or know people that might want to, be sure to Let them know it will be Starting February First

    Thanks

    DarkJade-

  • Reply darkjade68 January 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Wow, this is Awesome

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know about The Dark Globe’s “February Shoot Off! Photography Competition that will beginning February 1st, and Running Through February 14th… At The Moment We’re Voting on the Themes for the Photos if you’d like to Partake Here http://thedarkglobe.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/february-shoot-off-help-us-choose-the-theme-s/

    Also, if you’d like to Submit a Photo, or know people that might want to, be sure to Let them know it will be Starting February First

    Thanks

    DarkJade-

  • Reply Fidel February 16, 2012 at 2:51 am

    How interesting! I had no idea that there was a temple in S. Africa. Beautiful images Heather!

    • Reply 2summers February 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Yes, there are actually several Buddhist temples in South Africa, although this is the biggest one. Glad you like the pics.

  • Reply Fidel February 16, 2012 at 2:51 am

    How interesting! I had no idea that there was a temple in S. Africa. Beautiful images Heather!

    • Reply 2summers February 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Yes, there are actually several Buddhist temples in South Africa, although this is the biggest one. Glad you like the pics.

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