Jing'an Temple

Admission:

RMB 10; free during peak worship time

Hours:

7:30am–5pm daily; peak worship time: 4:30am–6pm daily

How to get there:

1686 Nanjing Xi Lu, Jing'an District. Take Metro line 2 and get off at Jing'an Temple Metro Station; the temple is directly above the station.

Phone:

(86 21) 6256 6366

High atop a massive pillar, golden four-faced lion look out at the clutter of modern high rises and billboards dominating Shanghai's central Jing'an Temple (Jìng'ān Sì, 静安寺) area. Beneath the pillar, one of the city's most interesting—and busiest—Buddhist temples has been reconstructed in stages, without ever ceasing to serve the faithful who come to make offerings, pray, burn incense and otherwise seek spiritual respite from the bustling metropolis outside the temple walls.

Records show that the site of today's Shingon Buddhist temple was first built upon in 1216 AD, during the Southern Song Dynasty, though a previous temple had existed nearby since 247 AD. The temple was badly damaged during the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century, with only the Great Hall of the Buddha surviving. Three additional halls were completed by 1921, and in 1999, large-scale renovations were initiated that continued for some time. The temple is home to several ancient artifacts of note, including the Shingon Altar, a stele with inscribed by Song Dynasty Emperor Guangzong as well as an enormous bell dating to 1340, the second year of the Ming Dynasty.

Part of the pleasure of visiting the temple today is seeing the ongoing construction taking place while worshipers and monks go about their business—it's all somehow a perfect picture of contemporary China, with the traditional and thoroughly modern mixing it up as if it were the most natural thing in the world for a giant advertisement for designer jeans to loom over the courtyard of an ancient temple full of modern Chinese, some of them wearing those same designer jeans (or at least decent knockoffs) as they burn incense and genuflect to the sound of Shanghai traffic, chanting monks and chiming bells.

On lunar April 8th every year, a three-day temple fair takes place, featuring street food, music, dancing and acrobatics.

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