China’s largest city has a growing reputation for becoming a must-see visitor destination. Ancient culture blends with modern technology as seamlessly as Chinese traditions have with Western customs.
Situated at the mouth of the Yangtze River in Eastern China, Shanghai is one of the world’s fastest developing and most vibrant cities. Yet despite its willingness to embrace the future it’s still proud of its spiritual beliefs and diverse historical roots; 1930s Art Deco buildings (the city is regarded as the Art Deco capital of the East) stand alongside modern skyscrapers and you’ll also find some of the finest examples of Buddhist temples in the city. Here are a few of the most notable that are worth taking a look at:
This temple is the one of the oldest religious buildings in Shanghai, with a history dating back nearly 800 years, but during its lifetime it has been destroyed, relocated, used as a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution and then returned to use as an extensively rebuilt temple. All this upheaval for a temple that’s name literally translates as ‘Temple of Tranquillity’. It also sits in stark contrast to the high rise buildings, vast shopping district and subway station that surround it but that just adds to the interest and appeal in visiting. You’ll also get a chance to see the locals who actually use the temple for prayer as well as having the tourist photo opportunity as Jing ‘an temple is one of the most popular with locals. Famous relics include the massive, 3.5 tonne Ming Dynasty copper bell.
In 1882 the original temple was built to house two jade Buddha statues brought back from Burma by the Monk, Huigen. Carved in whole white jade both statues are stunning works of art encrusted with precious stones; the sitting statue shows Buddha meditating and the reclining statue portrays reaching his peace after leaving this world. The original temple was destroyed during the revolution to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and a new model was built in 1928. Despite being situated in a busy urban area when you enter the temple you’ll find a cool, peaceful and tranquil atmosphere and inside there are lots of other cultural relics, scriptures and paintings to see. The building itself contains the Great Hall, the Chamber of the Four Heavenly Kings as well as the Jade Buddha Chamber. There are many hotels in Shanghai located close to the main attractions including the Jade Buddha Temple making it easy to reach and this particular temple remains an active Zen Buddhist temple today.
Found close to the river, the ‘Lustre of the Dragon’ temple features a seven storey high pagoda (seven storeys, each built to hold one of the seven treasures of the world including gold, agate and giant clams) at the entrance adorned with bells on every corner and around the octagonal corridors. It’s also famous for the Evening-Bell Striking Ceremony which takes place on New Year’s Eve; the bell is rung 108 times before midnight and people pray for good health, happiness and peace. Even if you’re not there on New Year’s Eve you’ll be treated to the sound of the pagoda bells gently and melodically chiming in the breeze.
Shanghai offers visitors the best of both worlds; the chance to explore the historical and spiritual temples of the city at the same time as experiencing a modern, bustling metropolis. The city has a strong focus on moving towards the future in terms of innovation, technology and design but still manages to retain the charm and individuality of the past.
Looking to break free from the stress and strain of a busy working life this summer? Maybe Shanghai will offer you the escape you are looking for.