Its sprawling golden roof, all curls and curves, dominated my hotel’s neighborhood visually. This is impressive since its neighbors are towering skyscrapers and gleaming malls. I wouldn’t say it really belongs on Shanghai’s must-see list, but there were some awfully nice pictures to be taken inside.

The Buddhas · There are three main-attraction representations, of which two are pictured here. The first, pictured through doors, is said to be the largest jade sitting-Buddha in China. The second is the temple’s largest, in the main hall; for a sense of scale consider that I was standing beside it looking up.

White jade Buddha at Jing ’an temple in Shanghai
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The Great Buddha at Jing ’an temple in Shanghai

The third, a standing figure carved in thousand-year-old camphor wood, eluded my photographic wiles.

Faith · There are three kinds of people in the temple: Worshippers, tourists who look and take pictures, and tourists who go through the motions: lighting incense and throwing coins at the thing-you-throw-coins-at.

I am not completely ignorant of Buddhist theory and practice, but I do not know (and Google isn’t helping me out here) what mainstream Buddhism, as currently practiced in urban China, is all about. What these people believe, how important it is to them, whether it affects their life outside the temple; all closed books to me.

I noticed with amusement one young couple: the girl had clearly dragged the boy into the temple and was making him join in as she worshipped. The woman below, on the other hand, stood still as a tree before the stone steps; I turned away before she moved because I wanted to preserve the image in my mind not just in the camera.

Worshipper before the stone steps of the Jing ’an temple in Shanghai

Gold · The many roofs gleamed golden and it must be real gold to retain that lustre in Shanghai’s damp not-very-pure air. I wonder how thick it is?

I note that set into the exterior walls of the temple are assorted sundry merchants: jewelery, antiques, fashion, a travel agency. It’s a pretty desirable Shanghai address, so I bet those rents are high and monks’ wages low. Which probably explains at least part of the gold.

Golden roof decorations at Jing ’an temple in Shanghai
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Golden roof decorations at Jing ’an temple in Shanghai
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Golden roof decorations at Jing ’an temple in Shanghai

The temple is undergoing renovations which, frankly, it needs. The interior is pretty beat-up and several of the places of worship have raw concrete interiors. I’m glad I went and I’d like to see it after they finish fixing it up.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Kanjo (Nov 05 2011, at 22:28)

Buddhist priests in mainland China are classified as government bureaucrats and have a guaranteed income. All remaining Chinese Buddhism was destroyed in the cultural revolution, Jing'an was burned down in '72. What you see now has been rebuilt and staffed by the Chinese Communist government.

>It’s a pretty desirable Shanghai address, so I bet those rents are high and monks’ wages low


From: John Cowan (Nov 06 2011, at 01:47)

As best I understand it, Buddhism and indeed all religions in China (with the possible exception of Islam and some kinds of Christianity) are primarily sets of practices rather than sets of beliefs, which is why people can and do follow more than one of them.


From: Phil Stefans (Nov 07 2011, at 04:17)

Great post...nice little insight into the pics...


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November 05, 2011
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