Shanghai: famous temples

Stroll along the most famous Shanghai temples with me!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Shanghai is an amazing megapolis with modern and historical districts that organically include the religious sites. Let’s see the most famous of Shanghai Temples!

To celebrate the Lunar New Year of Tiger in 2021 I’ve decided to look back on my trip to China right before the pandemic outbreak. Don’t forget to check my previous articles about the Modern ShanghaiForbidden city, the heart of Imperial Beijing, Chengdu and the Panda Reserve, Chinese Venice near Shanghai, the Great Wall, and the Lunar New Year celebrations in London and New York City.

Longhua Temple

Although Longhua Temple might require a short ride from where you stay in Shanghai as it’s not really around many other landmarks, it’s definitely a must visit.

Why? It’s probably the oldest temple in Shanghai dating back to 242 AD, the Three Kingdoms Period (although it has been destroyed and then rebuilt in the 10th century, so the current temple is much younger), it’s the largest Buddhist temple of Shanghai and it occupies the territory of over 20 thousand square metres!

It’s most recent restoration was done in the 50s of the last century – and it looks absolutely fantastic with all the bright colours, shining statues and potted plants everywhere around.

Among its most notable features are a huge bell tower used during the annual New Year Bell-Striking Ceremony and 40 metres high Longhua Pagoda that dates back to 977. There are also various halls with the most notable being Three Sages Hall, Four Heavenly Kings Hall, Mahavira Hall, Abbot’s Hall, Maitreya Hall containing the statues and the Sutras Keeping Hall.

Jing’an Temple

Jing’an Temple is another Buddhist temple of Shanghai. You can see it golden shiny roofs from far away when exploring the area.

Initially it was erected around the Suzhou river in 247 AD under the name of Hudu Chongyuan Temple but in the early 13th century it was transferred to its current position (now near the West Nanjing Road). As always, since then it was destroyed a few times but it’s been three decades since it has been fully rebuilt from ashes and functions as a temple again – and this is the reason why it looks so brand new. Take your time to observe it from different levels and angles: it looks fantastic!

There are six main halls and the ones you cannot miss are the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Three Sage Hall, and the Mahavira Hall with the biggest Buddha jade portrait in China. Hongwu bell is another notable feature of Jing’an Temple.


Tip: the area around Jing’an Temple is very vibrant – have a stroll around, pop into the department stores nearby and have the colourful Shanghai dumplings xiaolongbao!

Jade Buddha Temple

Jade Buddha Temple, the youngest one in my list, was probably the one I liked the most. Why does it look quite old? Well, it’s still about a century old and unlike the others it wasn’t destroyed during the Cultural revolution.

It is most known because of two amazing white (not usual green!) jade Buddhist statues: Sitting Buddha kept in the Jade Buddha Tower and the Recumbent Buddha in the Recumbent Buddha Hall both lavishly decorated with gems. Other important halls there are Devajara Hall and Mahavira Hall.

Shanghai Confucian temple

It’s hard to find a person who shaped China and some other Asian countries like Korea or Japan more than Confucius, Chinese philosopher of the 5-6 century BC. His doctrine Confucianism still influences the everyday life of millions of people. And no surprises that there are a number of Confucian temples throughout Asia with the main one located in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius. Nevertheless, Shanghai has a large and beautiful Confucian temple too located on the Men Hua road.

It’s called Shanghai Wen Miao, located in Huangpu District and is over 700 year old – it’s been known since 1294. Unfortunately, it was almost destroyed a few times during its history (for instance, during the revolt of the Small Swords Society and during the Cultural Revolution) but it has been recently rebuilt (in 1995) and it is definitely worth a visit!

Don’t miss the Dancheng hall, the main place of worship, Confucianism study hall and Zunjing pavilion that acted as a library! Also I was particularly amazed by the ancient rock musical instrument with numerous fenestration that created sound.

The temple was not only dedicated to prayers but more played a role of a school. 

We also had a lovely tea ceremony there learning about different kids of tea, ceramic tableware and Chinese traditions of tea drinking.

Hope you enjoyed my blog!
Yours,
Anna

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