Bali is preparing to celebrate the first Chinese New Year festival without restrictions since 2019. As China reopened borders for international travel on 8th January, the Island of the Gods is preparing to welcome back tourists from China for the most important festival of the Lunar calendar.
Although there are no direct flights from mainland China to I Gusti Ngurah Rai International, tourism operators in Bali are hopeful that the easy-to-obtain visa on arrival and straightforward travel requirements will make for ‘fuss-free’ vacations for travelers from China.
Preparations are in full swing at the Dharmayana Kuta Temple on Jalan Blambangan, Legian. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. The rabbit is a symbol of peace, prosperity, and longevity. It is said that 2023 is the year of hope in Chinese culture. Adi Dharmaja, the head of the Dharmayana Kuta Temple, told reporters that worshipers must still be pragmatic when it comes to their health during the celebrations.
Dharmaja said, “We are very grateful for President Jokowi’s official broadcast regarding the repeal of PPKM, we hope that this pandemic will end. However, we still urge people who want to carry out worship to maintain their health. If you are sick, it is better to stay at home and not pray at the monastery so as not to affect other friends.”
Dharmayana Kuta Temple, also known as the Leng Gwan Bio Temple, is widely considered to be one of the oldest Mahayana Buddhist sites in Bali. Dharmaja said that the temple is expecting to welcome 2000-3000 worshippers during festivities. He said, “Therefore, we also anticipate that people who pray with full solemnity, peace, and understanding will receive the desired blessing of glory and grace.” Preparations started over the weekend, including cleaning and cleansing the temple and installing candles, lanterns, and other decorations.
The biggest celebration will happen on Sunday, 22nd January, where community prayer will be held at Dharmayana Kuta Temple. Performing artists will conduct cultural dances and rituals, including the lion dance at the monastery on Sunday evening.
Dharmaja said, “Which means the prayer is neutralizing negative things, and at that time, the Dharmayana Kuta Temple will be open at 00.00 – 24.00 WITA to welcome the arrival of the people; usually there are also very many people that night.” Ceremonies will also take place on Sunday, 29th January and Sunday 5th February as a part of thanksgiving ceremonies and the temple’s anniversary.
Dharmaja said that tourists and the wider general public are welcome to observe ceremonies and celebrations. He said, “Of course, it’s certain because this is Kuta, the name of a tourism destination which for tourists around Kuta, chances are they will stop by to visit. I invite you because this is for the public, what is important is that it is clear that it is for kindness or devotion and respect.”
He asked the public to observe the rules of the sacred temple and to adhere to the dress code. As is the case with all temples in Bali, those who are menstruating are not permitted to visit the sacred areas of the temple, and all visitors must dress modestly. For the Dharmayana Temple, anyone who is in a state of mourning is not permitted to enter the sacred space.
Dharmaja added, “There are provisions, and there are announcements at every entrance. We have also prepared a sarong or cloth. So if there are visitors who wear impolite clothes, they will be given sarongs, however, we must maintain the sanctity of places of worship.”
Preparations for the Chinese New Year can be seen throughout Bali. In Bali’s Chinatown, on Jalan Gajah Mada in Denpasar, residents have lined the streets with over 1,200 red lanterns. On 28th January, the Chinese Indonesian Association will host a New Year’s Festival around the theme ‘Knitting Diversity, Strengthening Harmony’. The celebration will culminate in a parade from Jalan Gajah Mada to Puputan Badung Field, starting at 4 pm.
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