Jade Buddha Temple
Last updated by david at 2013-11-3
Shanghai's Yufo Chan Si, or Jade Buddha Temple (literally "Jade Buddha Chan Temple", the "Chan" (aka Zen) being a reference to the Chan Buddhism sect of Mahayana Buddhism, the other Mahayana sect being Shin ("Pure Land") Buddhism, not to be confused with Shinto, or the ancient religion of Japan that predates Buddhism's spread to Japan, though the name itself is a composite term - Shin ("Way of the Gods") and to ("to do"), i.e., "to follow the path of the gods" - borrowed from written Chinese), was built during the reign (CE 1875-1908) of Emperor Guang Xu of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty. Jade Buddha Temple is currently located at 170 Anyuan Road in the Putuo District of the city, though the temple was originally constructed on a different site in northern Shanghai.
The original temple, whose two exquisite buddha figures in white jade - one a sitting Buddha at 1.95 meters and weighing 3 tonnes and the other a small, 96-centimeter-long reclining Buddha (which, in Buddhism, is a symbol of Buddha in death, just prior to his transcendence) - were donated to the temple by a Chinese devotee living in Burma (they were transported by sea to Shanghai). How the temple came into being, and how it got its first two Buddha figures, is an interesting story in itself...
A monk - an abbot, in fact - from Mount Putuo, situated on one of the islands of the Zhoushan Island group located about 100 nautical miles off the coastal waters of Hangzhou Bay, Zhejiang Province, and one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism, decided to make a pilgrimmage to what is present-day Burma, via a route that would take him past another two of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism, Mount Wutai in present-day Shanxi Province and Mount Emei in present-day Sichuan Province (the fourth sacred Buddhist mountain is Mount Jiuhua in present-day Anhui Province), then across parts of present-day Tibet and into present-day Burma.
Upon his arrival in Burma, the monk, whose religious name was Hui Gen, met a wealthy Chinaman and Buddhist by the name of Chen Jun-Pu who resided there, and who donated five Jade Buddha statues to the pilgrim from Mount Putou. For reasons not currently revealed, Hui Gen (or perhaps the donor) decided that two of the Buddha figures should grace the halls of a not-yet-constructed temple in the then village of Jiang-wan, which lay on the northern outskirts of Shanghai (Jiang-wan, written "Jiangwan" today, is now a suburb of Shanghai). The two statutes chosen (the statues described above*) were sent by ship to Shanghai, and Hui Gen, upon his arrival in Jiang-wan, had a temple built, with funds donated by another devotee, to house the two Jade Buddhas, the name of the temple to reflect the gift from Chen Jun-Pu, which is how the temple came to be known as Jade Buddha Temple. Alas, Hui Gen died shortly after the temple in Jiang-wan was built, having never made it back to his beloved Mount Putuo.
Worse still, Jade Buddha Temple was destroyed during the civil strife that eventually led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, though the Buddha figures had thoughtfully been removed to temporary safekeeping at an address in Maigen Road. A new temple complex, or monastery, was constructed on the present site, thanks to a donation from another Buddhist devotee and Shanghai resident. Construction on the new monastery lasted ten years, from 1918-28. A much larger reclining Buddha, made of marble (and prompting some visitors to mistake the larger reclining Buddha for the original reclining Buddha, despite the difference in materials), now graces the temple in Anyuan Road as well, thanks to a donor from Singapore.
The architecture of the new monastery is in the grand style of the Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty. It consists of several halls, including Heavenly King Hall, Grand Hall, Reclining Buddha Hall, and of course Jade Buddha Hall. Jade Buddha Temple is still a functioning monastery, replete with monks who reside, pray, study, and conduct religious ceremonies on holy occasions. It is also home to the Shanghai Buddhism Institute; incense never ceases to burn at Jade Buddha Temple. Many ancient statues and paintings, as well as a rare set of Buddhist scriptures - the Dazangjing - printed during the Qing Dynasty, and more than 7000 other Buddhist scriptures, are kept in a special repository at the monastery. They represent one of the largest collections of Buddhist scriptures in China.
Since the monastery is also visitor-friendly, it has a souvenir shop as well as a vegetarian restaurant that serves tasty, modestly-priced meals prepared by the monks themselves (the monastery is no stranger to "the service industry" - during the Cultural Revolution, which was a difficult time for many temples especially, the monks of Jade Buddha Temple monastery kept themselves alive by making handicrafts which were sold to devout local followers, who supported the monks in this and in many other ways, as is the custom in Buddhism).
* The location/ destination of the other three statues donated to Hui Gen by Chen Jun-Pu is unknown, but they seem not to have ended up on Mount Putuo, as the prominent Buddhist figure on the island, not surprisingly, is Guanyin, aka the "Goddess of Mercy", and the patron saint, as it were, of sailors.
Solo Adventure Tips:
How to Get There?
Almost any bus in Shanghai that services the northern part of the city will take you within easy walking distance of the monastery. For the interested, here is an exhaustive list of relevant busses: nos. 13, 19, 24, 36, 54, 63, 68, 76, 105, 106, 112, 113, 138, 206, 223, 506, 516, 550, 563, 738, 768, 830, 837, 866, and – whew! – 922.
Ticket Price: 30 Yuan per person.
30 Yuan per person.
Opening Hours: From 8:00AM to 5:00 PM, daily, except during Buddhist holidays, when it opens already at 5:30AM.
From 8:00AM to 5:00 PM, daily, except during Buddhist holidays, when it opens already at 5:30AM.
More Tips: The best time of the year to visit Jade Buddha Temple? Anytime!
The best time of the year to visit Jade Buddha Temple? Anytime!
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