By Michael Evans
Crowds of worshipers flocked to temples across China early Sunday morning to light incense on the first day of the Spring Festival, believed to ensure good fortune for the entire year.
Dealing with massive crowds may be no challenge for temples used to a regular flow of tourists and pilgrims, but coping with the piles of incense burnt was a challenge many struggled to handle. At Guangzhou’s Guangxiao Temple, a worker stood atop the main incense burner shovelling out ash and unburnt joss sticks as worshippers strained to add more to the fire. After the crowds had gone home, sanitation workers were faced with a mountain of leftover incense to be carted away and disposed of.
Similar scenes could be found across the Strait, as Focus Taiwan reported from Taipei’s Xingtian Temple:
“It’s horrible,” one of the masses cried, stuck tightly into the crowd moving slowly toward the incense burner, each person with several burning sticks of incense in their hand. Others complained of a lack of order as people swarmed to reach the burner.
A Taiwanese folk culture expert counseled worshippers that there was no need to rush, as the custom of lighting the first stick of incense did not require being the first among others. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if anyone heeds his advice.