Jinze temple fair: piercing arms and sticking in fishhooks

Zhu Ying Zhou Shengjie Jiang Xiaowei
A temple fair in Jinze, an ancient town in Qingpu District, follows unusual rituals called Zharou Tixiang, in which devouts pierce their arms with fishhooks.
Zhu Ying Zhou Shengjie Jiang Xiaowei

Shot by Zhou Shengjie, Dai Qian and Zhang Wu. Edited by Zhou Shengjie and Gen Ziyu. Reported by Zhu Ying and Jiang Xiaowei. Subtitles by Zhu Ying.

In this episode of "Hidden Gem," my colleague Xiaowei and I traveled to Jinze, a charming ancient village in Qingpu District, to attend a miaohui, or temple fair.

Jinze Town, an undiscovered gem, has a millennium-long history. It boasts Shanghai's oldest stone bridge. "Every bridge has a temple nearby. Every temple has a bridge nearby" perfectly encapsulates the town's rich heritage.

The fair is held on the 28th day of the third lunar month and features uncommon sacrificial rituals.

At the core of the festival was a mesmerizing ceremony known as Zharou Tixiang, which translates as "prick flesh and hang incense." Devotees demonstrated their undying love by piercing their arms and then inserting around five fishhooks into the holes.

They hung gongs and incense burners weighing 2.5kg to 4kg from these hooks. With these unique exhibits adorning them, the believers started on a solemn procession around town, visiting three temples.

I wondered if the ritual hurts as I followed the devout. Each devotee replied firmly, "Not at all."

This dedicated group from Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, performs the Zharou Tixiang ceremony to honor the gods. They attend the Jinze Temple Fair every year for this profound display of reverence and piety towards the gods.

The lively temple fair blends religious service, entertainment, and trade.

My eyes were treated to a myriad of sights: grannies selling rice cakes as offerings before the gate of Temple of Yang Zhen; groups of local ayi gracefully dancing and singing Chinese operas alongside the melodies of the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese fiddle passionately played by several middle-aged men.

Mark your calendars for the next temple fair on the Double Ninth Festival (the ninth day of the ninth lunar month) to experience this unique culture. It evokes ancient traditions and transports you to a world of wonder and devotion.

Special Reports