Friday, February 16, 2007

Jade Buddha Temple

This is a quick look at the Jade Buddhist Temple in Shanghai. This post has the distinction of being the one-hundredth update!

The Jade Buddha Temple is slightly northwest of Central Shanghai, on Jianguo Lu. The area around it has a comfortable feel, although it's nothing special: a long procession of older two story buildings, with trees lining the street, and small restaurants and shops often occupying the first floor.

Right next to the temple, there's a number of smaller stores selling Buddhist relics. They generally aren't selling the incense in force, however, like can be seen near some other Buddhist temples. Outside incense is prohibited, the temple make some claim that's it's for safety's sake. Shouldn't a religious site, you know, not lie? Anyway have a gander, I like the lucky cat!

Compared to the Jing'an Temple, it all feels much more traditional. On the other hand, Jing'an Temple has an 1800 year history, and this temple has a history of only 80 years. That's more a reflection on how poorly Jing'an Temple has been treated, rather than the Jade Buddha Temple being some kind of Buddhist kitsch:

What looks like dust in front of the lens is actually dust in front of the lens, it was a windy day and the ashes of the incense being offered was flying around.

Chinese Buddhist temples follow a regular schematic, with a large main building. This larger main building has a lot of interesting sights, for instance carvings of animals on the outside walls:

And the insides are stuffed with Buddhist imagery, some of which were very impressive.

There were side courtyards that felt peaceful, either as the quarters for the Buddhist Monks living there, or as Buddhist shops! Jade Buddha Temple almost felt like a commercial center. A little commercialism is common in big-city Buddhist temples, and the vegetarian restaurant is probably entirely welcome to some. However the temple feels over-packed with gift stores selling upper-grade touristy things, upper-grade tea, there's a gift shop you exit the temple through, and even the titular Jade Buddha costs an extra $1.25 to see, once you're already inside. No photography's allowed, or I'd show a picture. I don't know what to say about it, it's impressive, but nothing amazing - maybe just because visitors aren't allowed within twenty feet.

The side yards also had some interesting little artworks that I couldn't quite place in context, with my limited knowledge of Chinese Buddhism. There's a pillar of four elephants facing in four directions, which I thought was a Hindu thing. And check out this demon, it looks cool but I have no idea what it does, or why it's missing its left horn:

There weren't all so many people when I was there. But supposedly the place gets massively crowded in just a few days, for the Chinese New Year's celebration.

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