Only in the past thirty years have Buddhism and the People’s Republic formed a truce of sorts. Today close to 20% of China’s population associate themselves with this ancient religion.
That brings us this week to a very special Shanghai destination: The Jade Buddha Temple. This magnificent temple dates back to 1882 and somehow managed to evade destruction in the post-communist purge described earlier.
The day of our visit happened to be a very important one. This was the fifteenth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Thus, this was the day of the Lantern Festival. I’ll have more on this exciting event in a series of future blogs, culminating with a colorful light-filled tour of Shanghai’s version of this important event.
Our China Spree guide Jim Mao gave us an extensive tour of the facilities, including a rather unique restaurant in which several of us partook of some Chinese tea. You’ll get to see more on this fascinating bit of Chinese culture Next Monday. Also included on our tour of the temple grounds were the two jade Buddha statues from which the temple gets its name. Alas, photography of the statues is a no-no. I was also declined permission to photograph a group of chanting Buddhist monks — I pointed to my camera and the monk whose eye I caught politely shook his head in response.
Nevertheless, I did manage to obtain some rather fun shots, such as this courtyard just outside the combination restaurant the tea room:
One outstanding feature of the day was standing in the smoke-filled main courtyard, watching people pushing their way to one of the two fire pits to light a bundle of joss sticks in preparation for their prayers for a prosperous year ahead.
Just how packed was this hazy courtyard? Take a look: