Shanghai temples cancel Laba congee events

Yang Jian
Distributing congee during this year's Laba Festival by Buddhist temples in the city will be canceled this year as part of their efforts to curb the spread of novel coronavirus.
Yang Jian
Shanghai temples cancel Laba congee events
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

People lining up in front of the Jade Buddah Temple last year for free Laba congee.

Some Buddhist temples have canceled their traditional congee-distribution events for this year’s Laba Festival in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jade Buddha and Longhua temples have canceled events which normally attract tens of thousands of people who deem Laba congee a symbol of blessings from the Buddha.

“It is part of a more stringent pandemic prevention effort that aims to reduce the gatherings and movement of people,” the temples said on their WeChat accounts.

This year’s Laba Festival is on January 20. Laba refers to the eighth day of the 12th month on the lunar calendar. The festival has been celebrated for around 1,500 years.

The festival is an important event in Buddhism, marking the enlightenment day of the Buddha. Temples offer porridge to the public to commemorate the Buddha and deliver his blessings.

According to traditional Chinese customs, eating Laba congee brings abundance and a good harvest.

As Laba falls in the last lunar month, it serves as a prelude to the Lunar New Year, which will start on February 12 this year. 

Recipes for congee vary, but the traditional dish usually contains grain, dried lotus seeds, longan, ginkgo, dried red dates and other ingredients.

Despite the cancellation, the Jade Buddha Temple will distribute 4,000 bowels of Laba congee to nursing home residents in Putuo, Jing’an and Changning districts.

Monks and volunteers will also send congee to local hospitals and communities.

Shanghai temples cancel Laba congee events
Ti Gong

The ingredients of traditional Laba congee

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