Chinese New Year is coming up on Tuesday, 1st February this year! And as a young Chinese-Thai who is an intern here at Citylife, I will be sharing some of my experiences over the coming weeks leading up to the big event so that you can perhaps have some more insight into our culture and follow what we get up to in the lead up to the big celebration. Perhaps I can even get you all as excited as I am about it!
So, one thing you should know is that nearly all Chinese families here in Chiang Mai, indeed Thailand, visit a temple on the morning of the New Year. I thought it might be fun to share some of the temples we visit with you.
There are more than ten Chinese temples in Chiang Mai: Kuan U Shrine, Kuan Im Chokchai, Chiang Mai Samakkee Charity Foundation, Pung Thao Kong Shrine, and Quan Yin Foundation are just some of the more well-known ones. I am afraid that I haven’t had the time to visit them all, so here are the three most popular temples in Chiang Mai for we Chinese-Thai locals.
Quan Yin Foundation, Kuan Im Chokchai, and Chiang Mai Samakkee Charity Foundation are the three busiest temple destinations in Chiang Mai. What differentiates these temples from one another is which deity they worship. Each family will go to the temple which worships their preferred deity.
Each deity requires its own ritual and version of worship, just as each family has their own. Some families may wish to worship to a deity which brings fortune, another one may focus on commerce or longevity. Some families simply want to pray and make merit. One thing we all share is that we want to make merit and show respect for our ancestors.
Some of us donate money to purchase coffins for the poor, a symbol for our own longevity. Others donate money to the temple, often focusing on their zodiac sign or pressing personal needs. Most temples will worship multiple deities, often having a physical separation of zones dedicated to the worship of each one.
We go to the temple for peace of mind, to show our faith, to respect our culture, to bring together family and to do good.
If you have never been to a Chinese temple, they are very welcoming of outsiders and you can visit these major ones here in Chiang Mai:
1. Quan Yin Foundation
This temple is easily accessible as it is located in the city. I think it’s the most popular temple in Chiang Mai with the largest number of worshipers. It is certainly very busy on Chinese New Years.
My family also prefers to pray here every year. They serve food and desserts on the day and this simple and unassuming temple is perfectly practical and suitable to most of us Chinese people. Quan Yin (Kuan Im) is a widely-worshiped Buddhist Bodhisattva associated with mercy and compassion.
Quan Yin Foundation
45/6 Muang Samut Road
Open daily: 6 am – 6 pm
2. Kuan Im Chokchai (Kuan Yin Bodhisattava’s Hall)
This temple, built in 1991, is located not too far from the city and is the diametrical opposite in appearance to the simplicity of Quan Yin Foundation. It is incredibly playful in its design. A massive and colourful 20 metre dragon guards the temple, its mouth wide open as an invitation for worshipers to enter. Once inside of the dragon’s belly, a tunnel lined with vibrant murals draws you into the bowels of the dragon, spewing you out into the place of worship. As you leave, you enter the guardian tiger, eventually emerging from its jaws.
Kuan Im Chokchai
Soi Mu Ban Nanthana Om Mueang, T. Padad
Open daily: 7 am – 5.30 pm
3. Chiang Mai Samakkee Charity Foundation
This temple is located in Night Bazaar area of the city (McDonald soi). It is close to home and convenient with plenty of parking.
I find the temple very beautiful and vibrant. It is colourful and always seems to appear festive. There is also beautiful interior with lovely murals and décor. My family comes here regularly to purchase coffins for the poor, making merit for longevity and overcoming obstacles in life. I always find peace when we come to do our coffin merit making. Try it!
Chiang Mai Samakkee Charity Foundation
145 Chang Klan Road
Open daily: 8 am – 12 am
Stay tuned for more Chinese New Year insights as we head to the big day!