On a cold and drizzly Wednesday, Peter and I took Subway Line 7 to the Jade Buddha Temple in a quiet section of Shanghai. After wandering down the wet streets, we came across souvenir shops selling ornately hokey Buddha figurines. We knew we must be close.
After paying the entrance fee, we walked into the quiet courtyard with fires blazing and people praying in silence. The architecture of the temple is spectacular and ornate without being too over-the-top. In awe, we began to quietly explore.
The Jade Buddha Temple, or Yùfó Chán Sì, is a Buddhist temple located in the western part of Shanghai. An old temple was built in 1882 to house two jade buddha statues brought by a monk from Burma. After the temple was destroyed in the revolution overthrowing the Qing Dynasty, a new temple was built in 1928 to house the statues. Both Buddhas are carved from whole white jade, one of the most valuable stones in Chinese culture. (source)
This is the smaller or reclining Jade Buddha. We had to pay to see the larger Jade Buddha and were not allowed to take pictures inside. We found ourselves submerged in a massive group of Germans and tried to blend in. They were led by a Chinese tour-guide speaking perfect German! He was incredible! After getting many stares, we parted ways with the group, much more informed (haha kidding).
While wandering around, we happened to come upon a Buddhist service with monks chanting in beautiful yet opposing harmonies. I was so entranced by the singing and just listened, closing my eyes to feel the music wash over me.
My favorite is the god with his arms raised. Huzzah!
Back in the courtyard, young women were making offerings to the gods, burning bundles of sticks in the perpetual flames.
Two girls opened a package of ornately decorated paper and slowly fed each sheet into the fire. They opened the paper into boat-shaped origami, readying it for the maiden voyage. As each boat burned, more and more ash billowed into the wind and dusted the girl’s face and hair. In the frigid air I was tempted to place my hands near the dear fire but refrained out of respect.
Finally we approached the “gardens”, which turned out to be a pond complete with a woman selling fish food. Swimming along brilliantly fake flowers, koi gaped blindly towards the surface, hoping for a tasty morsel to come their way.
We left the temple and took a different street back to the metro. Along the way, we passed decrepit homes held together with tarp, wire, and rubber. It was the poorest area I had seen in China thus far and was amazed at the resiliency to hold these buildings together.
Exhausted and cold, we stopped at a French cafe and filled our bellies with various pastries, pizzas, and cakes while sipping on delicious coffee.
There is nothing as delicious as a warm drink on a cold, wet day.
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