Shanghai Major Events & Festivals
As one of the most important cities in China, Shanghai has a consistent influx of activities, events, and festivals taking place throughout the year. It is a modernized hub that holds music and film festivals, yet does not forget its cultural roots, as the dragon boat festival is also celebrated.
Longhua Temple Bell-Ringing
On New Year's Eve in the Gregorian calendar (Dec 31), crowds gather at Longhua Temple to pray for good fortune as the bell is struck 108 times during a special midnight Buddhist service. Fireworks, dragon and lion dances, folk art shows, and music go into the wee hours.
This always falls 15 days after the Spring Festival. On the 15th day after Chinese New Year, on the first full moon, people used to parade through town with paper lanterns, while parks and temples displayed more elaborate and fanciful lanterns, all accompanied by fireworks and folk dances. In Shanghai in recent years, there's been a minor revival of sorts, especially around the Yu Yuan Old Town Bazaar, but the Shanghainese mostly mark the occasion by eating yuanxiao (glutinous rice balls with sweet stuffing). This festival is popular with the children as this ancient folk festival involves candies, nightly processions with lighted lanterns and a whole lot of fun for the young ones!
Longhua Temple Fair
Taking place at the famous Longhua Pagoda, this fair is the biggest temple-oriented event in the year, and draws thousands to the grounds during the month of April.
Tomb Sweeping Festival
April 5 in the Gregorian calendar; April 4 in leap years. This day honors the dead, which in Chinese communities overseas and some rural counties usually entails the sweeping of ancestral graves and the offering of food and wine to the departed. In Shanghai it usually means a mass run on the parks, where kite flying goes into high gear.
Shanghai Spring International Music Festival
One of many recent festivals instituted by Shanghai, this one usually runs for 2 weeks in mid-May and has attracted such performers as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Choir. It's also when the "Golden Chime" award is given to China's best music DJs.
Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival)
It's on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese Lunar month. It's one of the more colorful festivals in the city, people take to the streets to honor the memory of an ancient poet with special foods and a magnificent dragon boat race.
Shanghai International Film Festival
This formerly biennial film festival, usually held between June and the fall of odd-numbered years, is now an annual June affair. Held at the Shanghai Film Art center, this is a major showcase for Asian movies, as well as films from around the world. Scores of international films are screened, providing many Chinese with a chance to see films they would ordinarily not be able to. An international jury judges competition films.
Shanghai International Marathon
It's held in November. It's the city's biggest mass race and open to fun-oriented locals and serious international athletes, this event draws thousands of participants and many more spectators.
Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jié)
It's held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (usually Sept). Traditionally the time to read poetry under the full moon, but this festival, also known as the "Moon cake Festival," is primarily celebrated by the eating of "moon cakes," pastries with extremely rich sweet bean filling. During the Yuan Dynasty (1206 - 1368), Chinese attempting to revolt against their Mongol rulers sent each other messages hidden inside these cakes.
Shanghai International Arts Festival
It's usually held during the month of November. This wide-ranging annual festival (of quite recent origin) is expanding. The major shopping streets, parks, and tourist sites take turns hosting special events and performances, and rural areas put on various agricultural festivals. The venues and events change every year.