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.
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.
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.
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.