Jade Buddha Temple
Located in the northwest part of Shanghai and tucked away amidst a jumble of charming turn of the century two-storey cottages and small glass office buildings, the Jade Buddha Temple is a spiritual oasis in the midst of a booming city.
The heavily renovated temple was built with Song dynasty architecture in 1918 to house two legendary jade Buddhas. Its mustard yellow outer walls are shrouded with bamboo scaffolding and lined with queues of tourists and worshippers alike. Devotees carry clusters of burning joss sticks and bow in front of the Hall of Heavenly Kings, a giant cavern that holds humbling statues of various golden and bearded arhats that tower over those who enter. Wander past the Grand Hall towards the back of the compound and follow the signs to the Abbott Room, where the jade Buddhas resides.
The two Buddhas in the Abbot room were once part of magnificent five piece jade collection brought to China from Myanmar by a Chinese monk. The larger of the two Buddhas is encrusted in jewels; it was hand-chiseled and polished from white jade and stand 1.9m tall. On each side of this statue is a famous collection Buddhists texts made wood block prints in 1890. Measuring 90cm, the other Buddha is smaller, but is just as impressive with light glinting off its elegant jade body as it reclines languidly. A gnarled sandalwood trunk with carved Chinese characters and displays of late-Qing handicrafts add to the charm of this building. On the first floor outside the Abbot room are several gift shops selling everything from paper prints to traditional Chinese paintings to sandalwood fans and Buddha figurines carved from pure jade.
Crossing the courtyard back to the entrance to the Abbot room is a corridor that takes visitors to a splendid traditional Chinese teashop. The temple entrance fee includes a ticket to sample different sets of tea that can remedy everything from headaches to stomach bubbles. There's a polite sales pitch included, but all of the proceeds go to the temple.
Across the hall from the tearoom is a vegetarian restaurant that serves all manner of lunch dishes, many of which are fashioned into mouth watering meat entrees. Enclosed in a walled courtyard is a Buddhist research library that has some English books. The bald monks and jade Buddhas provide a break from Shanghai's frenetic drive to buy, eat and spend.