Obscura Society LA: Celebrating the Chinese New Year - Atlas Obscura

Hacienda Heights

Obscura Society LA: Celebrating the Chinese New Year

Party Obscura style for the Chinese New Year

The first weekend of February marks the start of the Chinese New Year and no where  in Los Angeles will they celebrate more than in the San Gabriel Valley, the largest ethnic enclave of Chinese immigrants in the world. 

Come join field agent Robert Hemedes as we visit two related Chinese Buddhist religious sites in Whittier and Hacienda Heights and see how they bring in the new year. Robert grew up in the SGV and was immersed in the culture throughout his childhood. Having provided guided tours to both locations on many occasions, he will lead and talk about what makes these sites so special. 

For our first stop, we will head over to the city of Hacienda Heights to visit the biggest Buddhist temple in the USA, the Hsi Lai Temple. Constructed in 1988, the temple’s Ming and Ching Dynasty architecture is faithful to the traditional style of buildings, gardens and statuary of ancient Chinese monasteries. Hsi Lai means ‘coming west’ and signifies the dedication of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order to spreading the teachings of Buddha to the Western Hemisphere. This is a large complex which includes a Gateway, Bodhisattva Hall, Arhat and Avalokitesvara Gardens, Courtyard and Main shrine.

Because of the Chinese New Year celebrations occurring this weekend, the temple will be decorated for the holiday and will be more busier and festive than usual. It will be a visual treat for the senses but make sure to arrive early to find nearby street parking.

After visiting the Hsi Lai Temple, we will travel to the second site in the neighboring city of Whittier. The Rose Hills Memorial Park is the largest cemetery in the USA. In addition to their famous rose garden and Skyrose Chapel, the cemetery houses the largest Buddhist Memorial Complex in America. The International Buddhist Progress Society (IBPS) Columbarium is located at the highest point of the Rose Hills, which provides spectacular views of LA and the SGV. Standing at 100 feet tall, it’s a 3 story structure and represents architecture of traditional Chinese imperial design. It also serves as the final resting place for the local IBPS community.

When the tour concludes at Rose Hills Memorial Park, everyone is invited to join Robert for a late lunch at Magic Restroom Cafe, the infamous toilet-themed restaurant in the City of Industry. 

For more information about the IBPS and their mission, visit: http://www.hsilai.org


- We do request that if you join us at this event, that you have an open mind and be respectful of other belief systems.

- We'll be entering a religious temple, Please be mindful of the sacred nature of the space. 

- The first meeting point will be a the Gateway structure of the Hsi Lai Temple located at 3456 South Glenmark Drive, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

- This will be a very busy and festive day for the Hsi Lai Temple, so we strongly encourage you to arrive well before 10 AM to find street parking and find your way to the Gateway structure of the temple.

- The second meeting point will be at the entrance to the Rose Garden in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. Robert will meet you at the front entrance. 

- The "bonus round" will be held at the Magic Restroom Café located at: 18558 Gale Ave, Ste 222
City of Industry, CA 91748