Burning of the Joss; Longhua Temple, Shanghai

A woman is deep in prayer between the flames at Longhua Temple.

The scene was surreal. Surrounding me were thousands of people, holding burning joss sticks and praying for the start of the Lunar New Year. Every minute a bell would ring. GONG. The entire crowd would bow simultaneously with the bell. It was an epic sight to see. The mood was solemn as everyone was focused on their prayers. I was overwhelmed. The masses. The fire. The striking bell. Not only was it intense just to be in the middle of it, but the photographer in me was going crazy trying capture its magnificence. In between firing off shots, I was trying not to trip over people or get burned by the fiery sticks in everyone’s hands. Wafts of smoke were overtaking my nose and lungs, and my eyes were tearing up in the stinging heat. It was powerful and truly an awesome event.

Longhua Temple is the oldest and largest temple in Shanghai. Joss sticks are a type of incense that is used during prayer. Here are some shots from what is one of my most favorite photo experiences yet.

When the fires became too big, a crew of firefighters was ready with hoses to keep things in check.