Chinese New Year Day 10: Temple Etiquette

The temple I went for prayer in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

The temple I went for prayer in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Day 10 of Chinese New Year doesn’t really have any specific tradition one must follow such as lighting fires, offering sweet foods to bribe the gods, or eating your first born child.

Okay. Just kidding about the last one.

Today is simply a day to continue praying and to be with family (assuming you are still on holiday). Most of my students are back in school, but a handful are observing the 15 days of Chinese New Year in its entirety. These kiddos will not return until next Monday, when they trickle back from visiting their grandmas and grandpas in the country.

Seeing as I haven’t made a visit to the temple since the eve of Chinese New Year, today I decided to make another visit. I’m sure the gods get the message despite in what fashion I pray, but this time I decided to do it properly. Thankfully, one of the teachers let me tag along with her to the temple today after school.

1. Cover Yourself Up

Please do not enter a temple dressed in shorts and tank tops. This is one reason I always have a sarong with me while backpacking in Asia. It is  a versatile fashion accessory that can be used as a blanket, towel, pillow on a bus, and in this case: a cover up for shoulders on temple visits.

2. Make A Proper Entrance

One must enter the temple on the right side. One never enters the temple on the left side or through the middle. It is considered extremely disrespectful. After you have exited the temple, you are allowed to enter back again on the left side, but absolutely never through the middle. There is a marker indicating the middle point just in case you lose your bearings.

3. Pay Up

Upon entering, a money box can be found. Each temple has a different donation price. The particular one I was in today had a suggestion of 100 NT ( $3 US) for 12 sticks of incense. I dropped the money in the offering box and redeemed my 12 pieces. The money goes to keeping up the temple and to charity.

4. Take a Bow

After I lit my incense over a candle, my friend guided me back outside  the temple. She instructed me to hold my incense in front of my forehead, bow three times while thinking of my prayer for the new year, and then place 3 sticks into the urn-like altar outside. It is very important to place your sticks standing up straight, not crooked.

The urn outside the temple where I put my first incense offerings.

The urn outside the temple where I put my first incense offerings.

I proceeded to do this at 3 different mini-temples located in the temple (I was able to enter through the left side this time), each time bowing my head three times while holding the incense to my head, and visualizing my prayer to the gods.

5. Wait for your prayer to be answered.

Or be proactive and manifest your destiny.

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