New Years in the Tang Dynasty

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New Years in the Tang Dynasty

Post by Huseng » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:59 pm

I've recently been reading through Ennin's journal 《入唐求法巡禮行記》 where he describes in detail day by day his travels through China in the mid 9th century. He was a Japanese Tendai monk who studied abroad in China for several years and saw firsthand the great Buddhist repression of 845. The journal itself is a great source for learning about the daily activities and social atmosphere of that period.

The following is his entry for New Years. Chinese New Years is coming soon, so I thought it might be interesting for some people to see a description of New Years from the Tang Dynasty.

【十二月】二十九日暮際,道俗共燒紙錢。俗家後夜燒竹,與爆聲,道“萬歳”。街店之内,百種飯食,異常彌滿。日本國此夜宅庭屋裏門前到處盡點燈也。大唐不爾,但點常燈,不似本國也。寺家後夜打鐘,衆僧參集食堂禮佛。禮佛之時,衆皆下床,於地下敷座具。禮佛了,還上床座。時有庫司典座僧,在於衆前讀申歳内種 [種]用途賑,令衆聞知。未及曉明,燈前吃粥。飯食了,便散其房。遲明,各出自房,觀禮衆相,共禮謁。寺家設供,三日便休。

12th Month, 29th Day.

Evening – the monastics and the laity together burnt paper money. The laity later in the night burnt bamboo and with a popping sound said, “Wansui! [Banzai]” In the streets there are a hundred varieties of food and it is exceptionally full. In Japan on this night people have lamps everywhere in the house, courtyard, rooms and in front of the gate. The Great Tang [China] is not so as only a [single] lamp is kept illuminated all the time which is unlike my country. The temple and houses later in the night strike bells and the assembly of monks gather together in the dining hall to honour the buddha. At the time of honouring the buddha the assembly all get up from their chairs and set some cushions on the ground. After honouring the buddha they again take their seats. At that time there is a logistics monk who in front of the assembly reads and outlines the various expenditures (?) making it known to the assembly. Before it has reached dawn in front of the lamps a meal is consumed. After finishing eating the assembly all disperses to their rooms. At dawn each leaves their room to attend rituals with the assembly and together pay respects. Both temples and households rest for three days.

If you're interested in reading Ennin's journal in the original Chinese please have a look at the following link which contains the whole journal (encoding is Japanese Shift_JIS). ... 8%93%FA%96" onclick=";return false;

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Re: New Years in the Tang Dynasty

Post by muni » Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:51 pm

Thank you to share this Huseng!
“ Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek. ”
H H Dalai Lama

"Relax." nirvana-samsara do not stray from spaciousness.

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