You did not hear from me for the past month or so, because I’ve been in Shanghai for work. Blog sites like good ol’ WordPress, Facebook, and Youtube were blocked in China for reasons I don’t want to speculate on at the moment.
Censorship aside, Shanghai is a lovely city, and one I would not hesitate to visit again. I’ll be posting some pics on some of the places I’ve been during my trip in my next posts.
PART 1: SHANGHAI TEMPLES
I’ve been to a total of three temples in China, two of which are in Shanghai. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, a trip to China won’t be complete without a visit to at least one temple, as these are very much a fixture of each city and a unique glimpse into the local culture.
The first temple we went to was the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple on 170 Anyuan Lu, Putuo (near Jiangning Lu). The temple is open from 8am to 4:30pm.
The temple’s main attraction is a seated white jade Buddha housed on the second floor (1.95 meters tall and 3 tons). You’re not allowed to take pictures of it, by the way. Instead they hand out postcards with its image by the doorway.
There’s also a small white jade reclining Buddha in one of the pavilions. both buddha statues were apparently imported to Shanghai from Burma.
Another temple we visited was the Longhua Temple and Pagoda on Longhua Lu 2853, Xuhui. Longhua Temple is the oldest and largest temple in Shanghai, and the day we went there was hardly anyone there, so it was extra quiet and peaceful.
The pagoda itself isn’t open for tourists, and a bit smaller than I expected. It has a lot of history however, as it has been rebuilt several times in the style of the Song dynasty.
My friends tried to jimmy the lock on the door by the side to see if we could climb up, but seeing that the whole structure’s floor seemed to be made of ancient wood I don’t think it could have held either of them.
The temple gates are also fairly new, with the old ones inside the compound flanked by male and female lions (another common feature in temples, gardens, pavilions, etc).
The temple fee of RMB10 apparently included incense, but we weren’t given any. I guess we looked too tourist-y. (open from 7am to 5pm)
Of course, first Sunday we were there we tried to attend mass at Shanghai’s largest Catholic church (it was nearest our hotel, by the subway). St Ignatius Cathedral along No. 6 Caoxibei Lu is walking distance from the Xujiahui station (turn right once you exit and keep walking).
The church itself is quite beautiful, and was surprisingly (at least to me) full the morning we attended.
We thought the flat screen TV’s on each of the church pillars would show us subtitles of the service in English (haha, spoiled tourists) but unfortunately for us the service was totally in Mandarin. We tried to ask the people in the front office if they knew what time the service in English was but they kind of waved us away since they didn’t understand what we were saying.
One thing I noticed: the parishioners of the St Ignatius community seemed like a well-off bunch, judging by the sheer amount of big-name European cars parked in and outside the church compound. Then again, they may be a common commodity in newly-rich China.
Travel tip: have your hotel concierge write down your destination on a card in Mandarin, for easy reference to the cab drivers. Cabbies in Shanghai always use the meter (at least those we’ve been on), and you can even ask for a receipt in case you need one.