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Temple Mania

Temple Mania October 14, 2015
Temple Mania

120 Hours in Shanghai

Daily posts and photos from ACM faculty and consortial staff during their site visit to the ACM Shanghai Program.
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Above: Devotees burn incense at the Jing’an Temple in Shanghai.

Day 2 – Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Posted by James Godde, Professor of Biology and Coordinator of Off-Campus Study, Monmouth College

I am an absolute nut for visiting temples. Ask my family how I dragged them around Burma trying to see as many of the 2,000 ancient Buddhist temples in Bagan as possible during our three-day visit there.

This time, my goal was much more reasonable — to see as many of Shanghai’s temples as I could in one day.

7:30 a.m. found me at the Jing’an Temple as it opened its doors to the public. Originally built in the third century, and largely destroyed in the 19th century, Jing’an has undergone a series of rebuilds and renovations. The grounds were mobbed with people paying their respects to Buddha before going about their busy days (see the photo above).

Longua TemplePagoda at Longhua Temple.

I wandered around for a while and eventually ended up in part of the monastery before heading on to make the 8:30 a.m. opening of the Jade Buddha Temple. This 100-year-old temple is named for the life-sized statue that a monk took home from Burma and then built a building complex around. I had somehow assimilated into a Brazilian tour group by the time I climbed the stairs of the back hall which houses the statue. When the gawking crowd blocked my exit from the antechamber, I wanted to say “permesso” to get them to part, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t Portuguese.

By 10:00 a.m. I had hit Longhua Temple. Like Jing’an, this temple dates from the third century, but since it escaped much of the destruction that Jing’an saw, Longhua ranks as the largest, most authentic, and most complete temple complex in Shanghai. Some other things that it has on Jing’an is the seven-tiered, 130-foot-tall pagoda as well as the festive music that was being played throughout the grounds. Once again I found this Buddhist temple to be packed with worshipers, along with a smattering of tourists like myself.

Confucian TempleJames Godde at the Confucian Temple.

However, if a person wanted to get away from the crowds for a while, all they apparently have to do is head for a Confucian temple. The one I visited around 11:30 a.m. was almost deserted; I think I saw less than a dozen people wandering around the grounds. Because of this, this temple represented the most relaxed and contemplative visit of the day.

I had always attributed the quote “Never spit in a man’s face unless his mustache is on fire” to the wise sage Confucius for which the temple had been built, but just like my nonexistent Portuguese, this is probably also a huge mistake on my part.

After a relaxing lunch of noodles at a restaurant way off the beaten tourist path, I finally tackled my fifth, and final, temple of the day. In stark contrast to the Confucian temple, the Taoist Temple of the Town Gods was easily the most hectic of the lot. While its proximity to a major shopping arcade may have helped the traffic flow a bit, it is true that practitioners of Taoism outnumber Buddhists in China at least two to one.

Overall, my temple visit put both the yin and the yang into my visit of Shanghai and served as a fitting end to my temple mania, at least for now.

Photos courtesy of James Godde.

120 Hours in Shanghai

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