Drawing a lesson from the New Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai that claimed 36 lives, the 1,700-year-old Lingyin Temple has decided not to provide free laba congee to visitors tomorrow, the Laba Festival, according to the Hangzhou Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs.
Eating laba congee is an ancient tradition that traces its origin to Sakyamuni. The founder of Buddhism was said to be starving for days and was saved by a shepherd girl with a bowl of congee. Days later, he attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.
To commemorate the Buddha’s enlightenment, many temples in China traditionally offer congee made of rice, nuts and other ingredients to visitors on the 8th day of the 12th month on the Chinese lunar calendar, hence the name laba.
Although no congee will be distributed to visitors, Lingyin Temple will send 300,000 bowls of laba congee to schools, orphanages and nursing homes for seniors in Hangzhou. The temple will let only 800 people to attend a prayer ceremony tomorrow morning.
The temple receives on average 10,000 visitors a day and the number is much higher during holidays.
Earlier this month, the Shanghai government announced to cancel this year’s Lantern Festival light show in downtown Yuyuan Garden. The event has been held for 20 years.
Source: Hangzhou International Center