In the six years that we lived in Singapore, the Hubs and I really looked forward to Chinese New Year. It was an opportunity to learn more about a culture we knew little about, and of course, to celebrate with our wonderful Singaporean friends. Bright red lanterns and street decorations everywhere, lion and dragon dances, yusheng (the salad toss to invoke prosperity), mandarin oranges in fancy gift packs, stacks of containers with CNY goodies, and so many more enduring images of CNY in Singapore.
In 2016, I even got to welcome the ‘Year of the Monkey’ in Mumbai. This year, as we approach our one-year milestone in Amsterdam, I wondered if there would be a chance to usher in the ‘Year of the Dog’ with some sort of authentic commemoration.
And then, I found out about the Chinese temple in Amsterdam! Who knew???!!! So we paid a visit on the second day of CNY (Feb 17th / Sat).
The Buddhist He Hua temple is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinatown. He hua is Mandarin for ‘lotus’, a flower of great significance in both Chinese and Buddhist symbolism. Inaugurated in the year 2000, the temple was founded by the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, which is based out of Taiwan.
The temple can be easily reached by foot from Central Station. Just type in its postcode (1012BB) in Google Maps and keep walking till you spot the traditional roof of a Chinese temple. The temple is sandwiched between typical Dutch buildings, which makes for quite an interesting sight!
The He Hua temple is the first (and the largest) temple in Europe to be built in the traditional Chinese palace style. The main shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy).
The statue of Guan Yin is flanked on one side by Qie-Lan and on the other by Wei Tuo, both revered as guardians of Buddhist monasteries and teachings.
Given that it was the second day of CNY, the temple was pretty crowded. We managed to pay our respects quickly, take a couple of pictures and head out. But I’m glad, that in some small way, we could join a fifth of humanity, in welcoming the Lunar New Year.
I can’t wait to come back at a quieter time, to learn more about the temple. Free guided tours (lasting about 30 mins) are offered on Saturdays at 2:00, 3:00, & 4:00pm.
You can read more about the temple and its activities, on their website. The temple is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon till 5:00pm, and on Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. It is closed every Monday and on January 1st.
For now I wish you a dazzling ‘Year of the Dog’!
🍊🍊 Gong Xi Fa Cai! Huat Ah! 🍊🍊
(Happy New Year! Be prosperous!)